Farmers putting machinery maintenance 'on the long finger' creates safety issues

Farm safety
Farm safety
Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Some 90pc of farming accidents are attitude and behaviour related according to William Shorthall, IFA National Safety Executive.

He expressed his concern for farmers to get rid of the ‘putting it on the long finger mentality’ when it comes to maintenance of machinery that cause safety issues on the farm.

“Behavioural change to the way we approach farming has to happen, 90pc of farming accidents are behaviour related, people putting it on the long finger,” said William, speaking at the Health and Safety Authority's National Conference of Farm Safety and Health.

At the conference he recalled an encounter he had with a woman whose husband had died from a machinery-related accident.

“She told me that everyone knew the handbrake wasn’t working on the tractor – but it was put on the long finger. It wasn’t because of financial issues or the lack of time, it was simply that we didn’t prioritise it,” he said.

William is involved in the Farm Safety Cluster, an initiative organised by the IFA to help encourage safer practices on their farm by learning from their neighbours.

He said so far of the farms he has visited, 70pc of the farmers had ‘close calls’ or ‘near misses’ within the last year.

He said people within the groups learn from each other pick up different pieces of advice on the farm visits.

“One particular farm I visit, all the kids have to wear high-viz vests on farm at all times. Another farmer briefs his contractor every time he comes to the farm on what time the kids are home from school and when they’ll be in the yard.

He said there has been a radical change in engagement levels in farmers in the last 10 years.

“People are actively looking for advice and want to be involved in these groups.”

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