Cash penalty would ensure safer farms
Published 18/01/2012 | 06:00
You have to hand it to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). Its advertising campaign has hit the press and the airwaves and it certainly has the shock value.
The big pictures of the farmer who lost his arm is visually powerful. But it's the radio ad that has really shocked me. The visceral sound of the flesh and bone being ripped apart leaves the listener in no doubt as to what's happening. If shock tactics work, this advert will be a resounding success.
The jury is still out, though, on what it will actually take to create a culture shift on farm safety. I'll be the first to admit that I've taken chances myself around the farm -- and almost paid the price on at least one occasion.
It was a classic scenario -- a breakdown with one of the machines had left me under pressure, so even though there were no goggles handy, I proceeded to start angle-grinding a replacement part. Some 24 hours later I had a doctor sticking a pin into my eyeball in an attempt to extract a shard of metal that had lodged itself there.
As the advert says, I'm one of the lucky ones. I still have two eyes. But the incident taught me that no matter how responsible I thought I was, it wasn't good enough when it came to the crunch.
The same goes for a lot of farmers out there. With 22 farming deaths last year, our sector is by far the deadliest occupation in Ireland right now. In fact, it has a four times higher rate of fatalities compared to that other traditionally dangerous sector, construction.
This doesn't need to be the case. The rate of lethal accidents on farms in Britain is eight per 100,000 -- half of the Irish equivalent.
And yet the death toll continues to rise, despite awareness campaigns by the HSA and a 40pc increase in the rate of farm safety inspections.