HEALTH and Safety Authority figures for farm fatalities, which show 21 people lost their lives in farming related accidents last year, were a tragic reminder to farmers to prioritise farm safety in 2013, ICSA spokesman on farm safety John Flynn warned this week.
Mr Flynn pointed out that the nature of farming and the make-up of the farming population means that comparisons with non-farming workplaces are of little value in accessing how far the Irish farming industry has progressed in terms of implementing safer working practices. "While we must continue to strive to reduce accidents, the reality is that the safety record on Irish farms compares favourably with other EU countries. No matter what we do, a farm will always be a more challenging environment than an office in terms of hazard," he said.
Mr Flynn added that a substantial proportion of farm accidents involve older people. In such instances, reduced physical strength and mobility rather than unsafe work practices, could be a contributory factor in accidents occurring.
"The challenge is all the more difficult because of the age structure. While in other working environments, people tend to retire at 65 or younger, we find that over 40% of fatalities on farms in 2012 involved indi-
viduals aged over 65. In fact, almost 25% of fatal accidents involved people aged over 70, and 10% of fatal accidents involved people aged over 85 still out and working on farms."
"While every accident is tragic, it is also the case that many older farmers find that working on farms keeps them interested in life and much fitter than if they simply stayed at home by the fire or retired to a nursing home. Ideally of course, we must continue to strive towards a younger farming population but there are no quick solutions to this problem," he said.
Mr Flynn said that there was a wide range of causes for the farm fatalities that occurred in 2012, but he singled out newly calved cows as a particular danger.
"One thing that is always a danger is a cow after calving. Farmers need to be extra careful. It is not always easy when there is a newborn calf that needs feeding and perhaps we should be looking at the rural development funds to provide support for the installation of better calving and handling facilities on farm," he said.