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New safety rules 'a disaster' warns farm contractors' leader


Farmers are set to face harsher penalties if they breach farm safety rules

Farmers are set to face harsher penalties if they breach farm safety rules

Farmers are set to face harsher penalties if they breach farm safety rules

In a week when three farm accidents pushed fatalities in the sector to 28 in 2014, the new safety rules banning children under the age of seven from tractors have come under fire from the contractor sector.

Two lifelong friends were killed while changing a tractor tyre in Donegal Friday, while another man in his 50's was smothered by barley in Wexford earlier in the week.

However, Farm Contractors Ireland (FCI) secretary Peter Farrelly described the new regulations as a "disaster".

"If my wife is working and I'm in charge of the child for a few hours after school, I'd feel far happier with the child in the tractor cab than running the risk of them sneaking out of the house and coming down to the farmyard unsupervised," said the Meath-based contractor.

He claimed that hard-pressed farmers didn't have the money to afford extra child-care, and added that having children around farmyards from a young age instilled a greater awareness about safety and more of an interest in continuing the farming tradition.

"I've seen where kids were kept out of the farmyard that they end up with little or no interest in the farm. When they're with you they are learning and developing an awareness for what's going on," insisted Mr Farrelly.

He admitted that he had often had his own son with him in the tractor since the child was less than three.

In response to the criticisms, a spokesman for the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) said that the agency wasn't for turning on the issue.

"All the research shows that kids should be no where near machinery at that age, end of story. Trust us, this wasn't some off the cuff response," he said.

The HSA has met with the IFA on the new rules since they were announced. When challenged as to whether farmers would be able to afford the cost of additional childcare, the spokesman said that it was up to the farmer to make other arrangements.

"People think that it is safe to have children up in the tractor with them, but we all know that it doesn't always work that way when a child wants to pop out to cross the yard to its mother or friend," he said.

Farmers found in breach of the new rules could face fines of up to €5,000 in the district court.

Mr Farrelly wants to see more focus instead on PTO shafts to improve farm safety.

"A scrapage scheme for PTOs would be a good start. When a farmer replaces a damaged shaft, it's always the first option to plug a gap if there's a problem further down the line. Instead, I'd like to see them taken out of circulation altogether."

He also believes that the price of PTO covers needs to be capped at a more reasonable level. "Why is it that a PTO plastic cover costs €85, when a complete PTO shaft with the cover and all costs just another €40 extra."

Indo Farming