Farm Ireland

Monday 25 June 2018

'Farmers are so reliant on quads, there is always the risk of an accident if safety procedures are not in place'

'Don't wait for an audit to bring your farm safety measures up to scratch'

Stock pic
Stock pic
Siobhan English

Siobhan English

Almost 50pc of the fatal accidents involved farm machinery since 2006, and quad bikes accounted for 15pc of those fatalities.

Statistically, accidents within the agricultural industry exceed all other sectors. Between 2007 and 2016, 197 people lost their lives on farms - 24 of those were children.

"Farmers have become so reliant on quads and they are on them 12 hours a day, so sadly there is always the risk of having an accident if safety procedures are not in place," according to John Cullen of Quadventure.

Finbarr Walsh of Capita Customer Solutions which has been conducting independent audits for Bord Bia since 2006, said it's up to each and every one of us to ensure our farm is a safe place, not just for when the Bord Bia audit takes place, but at all time.

While a large majority of the 23,000 farms inspected annually are found to be fully compliant when it comes to safety, some of the main areas where people fall down on audits include PTO shafts being left uncovered, exposed slurry lagoons, and inadequate chemical storage.

"The Risk Assessment Document provided by the Health and Safety Authority is a legal requirement and therefore it is so important that this is filled out and up-to-date," he said. "The HSA requires that it is updated every 12 months or more regularly if a farmer buys new machinery, for example."

Farmers are also advised to include details of any potential natural hazards, such as steep hills, or rough terrain, which may prove problematic for themselves or contractors.

Figures show that accidents involving farm machinery accounted for some 21 fatalities in 2016 compared to 18 in 2015.

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Set up 20 years ago as a diversification from farming, it is now a hugely successful family-run business in the south-east.

It specialises not only the fun aspect of quad bikes, but also safety training for the public and private sectors.

"Getting farmers to wear helmets is one of the biggest stumbling blocks," he said, "as they are not a legal requirement," according to John Cullen.

"We also like to stress the importance of safety checks every time before the quad is used. This includes oil checks and tyre pressure, but most importantly brakes. If these fail, an accident is very likely."

During the demonstration Mr Cullen also outlined the importance of shifting a person's weight according to the direction of the quad.

He emphasised this was also important when going up and down hills.

"Another area of concern is when towing a trailer. Each quad has a different towing capacity, so people must bear this in mind.

"A lot of farmers are also using quads to carry sprayers and this can be lethal when the weight shifts. They can easily cause a quad to overturn," he said.

In recent weeks a new organisation, Awareness Head to Toe, was launched in Co Wexford in a bid to further promote mental health, general health, and farm safety awareness.

The organisation's first event, a farm safety and mental health open day, takes place on Leslie Dixon's farm in Moneylawn, Gorey, Co Wexford on Saturday, September 30, from 11am-4pm.

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