Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Inspections rise to tackle spike in farm accidents

Minister Richard Bruton stated that he was shocked at the trends so far.
Minister Richard Bruton stated that he was shocked at the trends so far.

Martin Ryan and Darragh McCullough

Up to 150 farms per week are being targeted by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) for unannounced inspections after a spike in farm accident related fatalities.

Six fatalities over a two week period between late April and mid May brought the number of farm accident deaths to 12 compared to one for the same period in 2013.

The HSA has confirmed that while the inspections' campaign is nationwide, there will be a special focus on counties such as Cork where there have been high farm accident rates in recent years.

The overall number of HSA farm safety inspections has doubled to nearly 3,000 a year since 2010.

A HSA spokesman said: "Farmers are very compliant and willing to make improvements when a risk is pointed out to them, but we are pleading with them to realise the effect that a fatality can have for them and their families and take more care to prevent it happening."

Eight of the 12 fatalities this year involved farm tractors and machinery.

The most recent fatality occurred last Friday when a farmer in his 80s from Convoy, Co Donegal was trampled by a cow.

It follows another horrific accident two weeks ago, when a 17-month old baby was crushed by a tractor on a farm at Killeagh in Co Cork.

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The new HSA campaign coincides with the start of what is usually the worst three-month period for agricultural accidents.

Farm fatalities account for more than half of all workplace deaths to date this year, even though agricultural workers make up barely 6pc of the total workforce.

However, Ireland's rate of farm accidents is not out of line with European averages, said the HSA spokesman.

"Britain is the only country in the EU that seems to have achieved acceptable levels of farm safety. We've tried to replicate all their initiatives, but to no avail. It may be just the case that the farms over there are bigger and better resourced outfits."


Although a safety statement is a legal requirement on every farm, a survey of Macra's young farmer of the year finalists in 2012 highlighted that one in five had no such document, while another 20pc had no idea where their safety protocol was.

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney have united with the HSA and the IFA in a joint appeal to all farmers on increasing awareness to make safety a top priority for the coming peak months.

Minister Bruton stated that he was shocked at the trend so far this year. "My department will continue to intensify our work with my colleague Minister Coveney's department, the HSA and the Farm Safety Partnership to tackle this problem," he said.

Minister Coveney said that while many farmers are under pressure approaching the busy silage-making season, "taking risks with your life and limb is never worth it".

"What good is all that hard work if an accident happens due to rushing or fatigue?"

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