Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Farm safety: 'The challenge now is to turn awareness into real action'

The level of awareness about safety issues has increased but much more is needed

Tractors and machinery account for half of the accidental deaths on our farms
Tractors and machinery account for half of the accidental deaths on our farms

Pat Griffin

The figure of 193 is a tragic number and one that should be ingrained into the minds of every Irish farmer as they go about their day to day work.

It is the number of their loved ones, both young and old, who are not with us anymore because of farm accidents and working mishaps in the 10 years to 2014.

That's 193 Irish farm families who still mourn a father, mother, uncle, aunt, child or sibling who woke up optimistically one morning to work on their farming enterprise and will never return to their farm again.

As a senior inspector with the Health and Safety Authority I know the devastation which these tragedies cause both to farming families and rural communities.

I and my colleagues have walked into those farmyards and have seen the pain and heartbreak on people's faces.

At our stand at the Ploughing this year Brian Rohan, who lost his father in a farming tragedy and went on to establish Embrace FARM which provides a support network for farm families who have suffered a farm death or serious injury, will explain the supports available to affected families.

The statistics behind these tragedies make for grim reading but I can never get it out of my head the devastation and pain they cause.

On average 20 people a year have died on farms over the past 10 years - that's over one person a month - and last year proved devastating with 30 people dying on Irish farms. So far this year 13 people have died because of farm accidents.

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One of the areas that has become a major concern for myself and the HSA is the number of lives lost working with bales over the past three years.

Some 12 people have died due to bales during this period - half of these as a result of being crushed by falling bales or being rolled over by round bales, with others crushed or trapped by tractors or farm machinery while moving bales.

Tractors and machinery consistently account for half of the deaths on Irish farms and these machines are becoming bigger, faster and more complex to operate and there seems to be little provision or take-up in training to operate this equipment.

The challenge now is to turn awareness into real action, real sustained improvements and less incidents on the ground.

On the more positive side of things the level of awareness of farm safety among farmers has increased substantially over the past year. Yet far more still needs to be done.

The experience of health and safety inspectors suggests that the standard of safety statements and codes of practice on farms are generally adequate to control farm risks. Yet many farmers fall down when it comes to actually putting the day to day controls and safety practice into action.

I'm urging farmers to visit our stand - 379 Block 1 Row 22 - at the Ploughing this year to see safety demonstrations and talk to our inspectors and other safety experts.

Demonstrations will cover general tractor safety, vehicle danger zones, PTO entanglement and machinery safety on the handling of round bales.

The Irish Heart Foundation will be on hand to conduct their usual blood pressure and health checks and visitors can sit down to watch our ''Survivor Stories' and 'Older, Wiser and Safer' DVDs.

There will be a major focus this year on the safe use of quad bikes, chainsaws and providing safe play areas for children living on farms.

Pat Grffin is a senior inspector with the Health and Safety Authority

Teagasc rolling out health and safety lecture series

Teagasc will roll-out a series of nationwide farm safety lectures during the most dangerous time of the year on farms.

John McNamara, the body's health and safety officer, said a recent survey has shown that farmers who had attended the half-day safety courses had implemented an additional 40pc of new safety measures. The safety lectures will run from October until March and will be a mandatory requirement for a farm payment under TAMS II scheme.

"The statistics show that September, October, November and December are the dangerous months on the farm with 11 farm deaths last year tragedies occurring during this winter period," said Mr McNamara. "We have to get the safety message across. Farmers are being knocked down by tractors rolling backwards and similarly incidents with bales of silage. Tractors are particularly dangerous and should never carry passengers," he added.

Slurry incidents and accidents with cows and bulls are also of concern, he added.

On the positive side he said there have been no farming deaths from PTO incidents over the past five years but he stressed that farms would always be dangerous places to work.

Mr McNamara said Teagasc will publish a new brochure on farm safety training at the Ploughing on their stand 279. The Teagasc courses, which carry a fee of €30, have achieved a 98pc satisfaction rating from previous participants. The times and locations of the courses are available from your local Teagasc office and the courses can be taken online.

For this year's Ploughing Teagasc has designed a 'safe play area' for farms which is designed to separate the play areas of farm children from the farmyard and a working model will be unveiled at the Teagasc stand next Tuesday.

All the new Teagasc safety initiatives are available online at

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