'No other sector is experiencing the level of fatal accidents that farming is'

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The Minister for Employment Pat Breen has said it is "greatly concerning" that so many families are losing loved ones due to work activity.

Almost half of all work-related fatalities this year were in farming, a sector that accounts for only 6pc of the Irish workforce.

Minister Breen, who was talking at a farm safety walk in Clare, said no other sector is experiencing that level of fatal accidents.

"It is greatly concerning to me that so many families are losing loved ones due to work activity. I would appeal to farmers to take some time to consider the risks in every job they do and to work out a plan to manage the hazards before they start work."

Statistics from the Health and Safety Authority show that you are eight times more likely to die working on a farm in Ireland than in the general working population.

In the last 10 years almost half (48pc) of all farm deaths have involved tractors and machinery, while 14pc of fatal accidents involve livestock. However, 65pc of all farm injuries can be attributed to handling livestock.

The event was organised by the Health and Safety Authority and Teagasc and is designed to give local farmers an opportunity to learn first-hand about the practicalities of safety.

It allows farmers to see and discuss good practice, while learning how to minimise the risk of accidents to themselves and their families.

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There were four key areas addressed; tractors and machinery, livestock handling, farm buildings and slurry management.

During the walk farmers were given advice and information on; risks around tractor use, changing and maintaining PTO guards, vehicle safety including a SAFE STOP procedure and the additional risks involved when carrying out maintenance work.

Farmers were encouraged to take more care when working at height, to use the appropriate equipment such as a mobile elevated work platform (MEWP) and not to take risks particularly while carrying out maintenance on fragile roofs. The importance of removing livestock and only carrying out slurry agitation on a windy day was also emphasised.

Slurry presents two particular safety and health problems - drowning and gas poisoning. Drowning is by far the most common cause of death involving slurry. Children and the elderly are at particular risk.

In the period 2000-2010, 30pc of child fatal accidents on farms were caused by drowning in slurry or water. In the same period 8pc of deaths to elderly farmers were caused by drowning.

Smell is no indicator of the absence of gas, as many gases are odourless. Hydrogen sulphide has a 'rotten egg' smell at low levels, but cannot be smelt at higher levels. High levels can be released when slurry is agitated. One breath or lung-full at this level causes instant death.

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