Majority of farm fatalities are avoidable, say safety experts
And steeper penalties may be introduced if current rate of accidents continues, reports Margaret Donnelly
One farmer dies every two weeks in Ireland as a result of an accident, most of which could be avoided - that was the message from a recent IFA farm safety event in Longford.
And the biggest killer of farmers in Ireland is the cow or heifer around calving time. Half of all deaths on farms are a consequence of livestock. Greater care as well as increased investment is required to prevent more deaths.
"The cow or the heifer at calving is a lethal prospect for farmers," safety expert Vincent Nally (pictured) told the event organised by Longford IFA chairman Gavin White.
"If you're calving that cow or that heifer at 4am, and you're probably on your own, you could end up dead," he said, adding that "strong and robust" calving gates are essential for farms.
Mr Nally serves on the farm safety committee of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and said the root cause of accidents can often be complacency.
"If you do a bungee jump, at the start you're thinking you'll never do this again because it's dangerous, but then you get used to it and it becomes normal and familiar," he said.
"It's the same with farming. When you take the sense of danger away, you can get complacent.
"There's an old Wild West saying that the man who lives by the gun, dies by the gun. That's the case with farm accidents. Every second death in a workplace in Ireland is on a farm."
So far in 2019, there have been 10 confirmed deaths on Irish farms, with another six or seven still under investigation. If these are confirmed as farm fatalities, it would leave 2019 on course for being one of the worst years on record for farm deaths.
Mr Nally said a new approach is needed to reduce the number of fatalities, with sterner penalties a possibility for breaches of farm safety.
"Somebody is going to die in the next week, 10 days or two weeks, it's almost guaranteed," he said.
"In Dublin they talk about a carrot and stick approach to farm safety - I think the carrots have run out by now.
"When we're up with the HSA looking at the reports of farm deaths, there is one word that comes up in nearly every investigation and that word is 'avoidable'. These accidents can be avoided."
Mr Nally added that farmers needed to make safety an everyday priority
"When you put on your boots in the morning, the challenge is that you take off your boots in the evening and that it's not a paramedic that will be taking them off."
Dairy farm accidents increased by 50pc in 2018, says Teagasc report
Accident rates on dairy farms rose by 50pc in 2018, a Teagasc study has found, writes Claire Fox.
The Teagasc survey outlined that 18pc of dairy farms had an accident over the previous five-year period, compared with 12pc recorded in the previous survey taken six years ago.
The accidents reported involved livestock (37pc), farm vehicles/machinery (23pc), chainsaws and timber (13pc), buildings (5pc); 'other' was 7pc.
The study urged farmers to remember that as owners/managers of workplaces, they have a legal duty to manage health, safety and welfare under the Safety, Health and Welfare Act 2005.
Non-compliance leaves the person responsible liable to legal prosecution.
The survey also pointed out that farmers and their employees must safeguard persons who are not their employees, such as members of the public.
The Act requires that farms must be secured in 'so far is as reasonably practicable and that employers have a duty to protect employees and all those affected by the farm work activity.
Teagasc health and safety specialist John McNamara said that where a risk cannot be eliminated, suitable protective equipment must be provided and maintained.
"Emergency plans such as arrangements to contact emergency services, first aid and the fire precautions must be prepared and updated. Farmers must seek competent advice if they do not know the solution to a health and safety problem," he said.
Mr McNamara referred farmers to visit the HSA and Teagasc websites to ensure active and ongoing management of farm safety in order to ensure high welfare standards and to manage a progressive dairy enterprise.
"Excellent health and safety standards should always be the aim, and these can greatly support meeting business goals and attracting and retaining staff," he said.
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