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Complacency about everyday dangers on the farm is still a big concern, warns coroner

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Mr Mahon says farms are the most dangerous working area of all. Stock Picture

Mr Mahon says farms are the most dangerous working area of all. Stock Picture

Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

Mr Mahon says farms are the most dangerous working area of all. Stock Picture

Brian Mahon dealt with the aftermath of numerous farm accidents during his time as Offaly County Coroner between 1997 and 2018. And what worries him most is that while the nature of the accidents may have changed, the number of fatalities has not declined.

"Farms are the most dangerous working area of all, far more dangerous than building sites or any other areas," says Mr Mahon.

"In my early years working as a coroner, there were more fatalities with PTO shafts and older tractors. We received the Garda photographs of the scene of accidents and they're very grim scenes. They were horrific by their nature. However, farmers are more aware now of the danger of PTO shafts and have more modern tractors, meaning that shafts are covered and there are fewer incidents with them.

"There was a decrease with PTO shaft accidents from around 2010 on."

However, he says "we still saw a lot of accidents with a lot of different causes such as quad bikes, tractors rolling back on top of people, incidents with livestock - like a bull attack or a cow turning on a farmer as they were trying to separate their calves. There were falls from ladders, buildings etc. and incidents with slurry gas which are very dangerous.

"A common factor is that farmers are away from the farmyard and are unable to access help on time."

Mr Mahon believes that one reason for the high rate of farm accidents is complacency about dangers on the farm.

Farmers are working in surroundings they have worked in all their lives, and this sometimes leads to overconfidence in their ability to handle potential safety issues and problems.

"Familiarity breeds contempt. If you've been doing something for 20, you're going to fall into a feeling that it's not going to happen to you.

Children

"Farmers tend to be headstrong; they've done it all, just as their father has before them."

Children are particularly vulnerable when it comes to farm accidents involving machinery, he adds.

"One thing that struck me is the involvement of children. Children tend to get involved in jobs like cutting turf or jobs in the yard, which can lead to accidents.

"I often see it still, farmers carrying youngsters in tractors which can go very fast. It's very hard to keep children away from farms because they are a hive of activity.

"Often a farmer's partner is away is out working and they have to look after the kids, so they feel they have to bring the child out with them.

"But I've seen farm families at an inquest after the death of a child and it is something that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives."

Indo Farming