Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

'Accidents increasingly lethal with increasing age'

A combination of farmer behaviours and the ageing profile of the farm population are leading to the rising trend in farm deaths.

This is a main finding of a long term geo-demographic study jointly conducted by Teagasc and the Health and Safety Authority.

The study's lead researcher, Dr David Meredith of Teagasc's Rural Economy Development Programme said that the study examined farm workplace death patterns since 1993 in relation to population, geography, primary causes of fatalities and the timing of deaths.

The overall aim of the research is to uncover trends that will be of assistance in cutting the farm death toll.

Dr Meredith noted that while the average number of deaths was 18 per year between 1993 and 2013, in four of the last five years farm deaths have been substantially higher than this average.

Dr Meredith stated that "while age is not a primary cause of fatalities it does help explain some of the trends that have become more prominent in recent years.

"Fatalities amongst the population of farmers under 45 years of age since 2009 are below the long run average."

In contrast, deaths among farmers between 45 and 64 years of age are 57pc above the long run average for this group.

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"This is the equivalent of three extra deaths per year of farmers in this age group. This trend is thought to be associated with an increase in the number of farmers in this age group resulting from large numbers returning to farming following the collapse of the construction sector."

The Teagasc researcher stated that fatal farm accident data also indicates a strong behavioural dimension to farm workplace deaths, particularly those associated with tractors and machinery, livestock and falls.

"The data indicates that accidents become increasingly lethal with increasing age. This highlights the importance of forming habits of safe behaviours at an early age", he added.

Teagasc National Health and Safety Officer, John McNamara, said the study's findings are in line with international trends

He called on farmers to ensure that tractors and farm vehicles are securely parked and that the safety of all persons who have access to farmyards is considered.

His advice comes against the background of the 60pc of farm deaths in 2014 that were associated with moving farm vehicles and machines resulting in lethal crushes and blows.

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