Dramatic rise in farm accidents with dairy farmers most likely to be injured

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Farm accidents have risen by 13pc in the last five years and by 31pc in the last 10n years, according to new figures from Teagasc.

This is the stark finding of a national survey of farm accidents conducted by the Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS). The survey found that in the five year period 2012-2017 that 11pc of farms had an accident and in total 2,814 accidents occurred.

By farming system, the survey indicates that dairy farms had the highest accident rate of 18pc over the survey period compared to tillage (12pc) and sheep (11pc) farms with the cattle systems of rearing (9pc) and finishing (8pc) reporting lower accident levels.

The survey indicates that 42pc of accidents involved livestock with farm vehicles or machinery involved in a further 25pc. Trips or falls resulted in 13pc of farm accident followed by chainsaws (7pc) and farm buildings (6pc).

The proportion of accidents involving farm vehicles or machinery has more than doubled from 2011 to 2017, while livestock related accidents increased by 26pc. The survey, however, indicates a marked decline in the proportion of accidents due to trips and falls.

The survey showed that almost two-thirds of farm accidents occurred in the farmyard (64pc) and a further 15pc in farm buildings.  Almost one-fifth of accidents (19pc) were in fields with only 2pc on farm roadways or lanes.

The 2017 Teagasc NFS survey indicates that the vast majority of on-farm accidents (92pc) involved a family member, with 80pc occurring to the farmer. Some 12pc involved a spouse or another family member. The remaining proportion of accidents involved workers (5pc) and others (3pc).

Almost all farm accident victims (97pc) required medical treatment with 73pc attending hospital, a further 19pc attended a doctor and 4pc received first aid. Tragically 1pc of such accidents reported resulted in a fatality.

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In terms of work time loss due to a farm accident, almost one-third (30pc) of accidents resulted in a work absence of more than a month, with 21pc being more than two months. Some 13pc of accidents resulted in an 11 and 30 day work absence, 22pc a 4-10 day work absence, and 1-3 days an 18pc absence respectively. Just 17pc of accidents resulted in no work time loss. 

The Teagasc survey data indicates that younger farmers are more likely to have non-fatal accidents in contrast to fatal accidents. Thirteen per cent of farmers in the 40-50 and 50-60 age brackets suffered a farm accident, followed by 12pc for farmers below 40 years of age. Nine per cent of farmers aged 60-70 and 7pc over 70 years of age suffered a farm accident over the timeframe of the survey.

Responding to the survey, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed said: “These non-fatal accident statistics make for stark reading and highlight that behaviour is an important part of safety.  My Department have included a farm safety component to the Knowledge Transfer Group meetings and also made farm safety a mandatory part of drawing down TAMS grants.  Farmers need to take time to plan their work and not take risks. The impact on families of serious accidents is unquantifiable, so I appeal once again to farmers to make the change to keep safe.”

The 2017 Teagasc NFS farm accident survey data represents 85,000 farms with a standard output of greater than €8,000. The study is co- authored by Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist, Dr John McNamara with Teagasc NFS colleagues Dr Emma Dillon, Mr Brian Moran and Dr John Lennon.

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