Farm Ireland

Tuesday 12 December 2017

HSA turns up heat after rise in farm deaths

Martin Ryan

Farm inspections by officers from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) are to be increased almost three-fold this year, as the focus for safety concentrates on serious injuries and fatalities in the workplace.

The HSA has targeted at least 3,000 farms to be inspected before the end of the year, following the appointment of a number of officers who will be working solely on farm inspections.

This follows a 250pc increase in farm-related fatalities last year to 26, one of the worst years in a decade for accidents involving loss of life on Irish farms.

Concerns for this year have been heightened after six people died recently as a result of farm accidents, bringing the total for the year to date to ten.

The dairy sector has consistently seen the highest number of farm fatalities out of all the farming enterprises.

There are about 1,500 farm accidents reported each year.

John Kennedy, senior inspector in the mid-west region, said that the policy of the HSA visits to farms was primarily to advise farmers on the dangers evident on their farms and prosecutions are not being resorted to unless the farmer refuses to co-operate.

"There have been major improvements on farms over the past 10-15 years," he said. "It is rarely now that we find a PTO that is not guarded and conditions generally are a lot better than they were.

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"We are still concerned that farm accident statistics are remaining so high. The pattern has not changed. Livestock and machinery are still the biggest killers on the farm, with bulls and suckler cows now high on the list," he added.

One in every 20 farm inspections carried out this year resulted in enforcement notices being issued. Mr Kennedy also predicted that it will become obligatory for a file on every farm fatality to be sent to the DPP. "I am not looking forward to it, because these families have suffered enough, but the decision will be out of our hands," he said.

John Hennigan, a full-time HSA inspector, said that 99pc of farmers who keep a bull have experienced a near-miss and no bull should be trusted.

He also highlighted the increase in the number of serious accidents on farms involving the use of quads.

The HSA is carrying out county-by-county advisory meetings for farmers in association with the IFA to highlight the seriousness of the situation.

Meanwhile, at the opening of the National Safety Conference in Roscommon last week, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, advised farmers to be extremely vigilant over the coming weeks and months when school children are more likely to be playing on farms and young people are more likely to be around tractors and other machinery.

"I would urge all farmers to talk about farm safety at every opportunity -- at the mart, at the match, in the pub, around the dinner table," he said.

"By continuously talking about and being aware of farm safety we can together bring about a change of culture and farmer thinking."

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