Farm Ireland

Wednesday 16 January 2019

How basic preventative measures can eliminate many potential causes of farm accidents

FBD advisor Ciaran Roche speaking to farmers at the Tegasc farm safety event in Flynn Machinery, Mullingar. Photo: Damien Eagers
FBD advisor Ciaran Roche speaking to farmers at the Tegasc farm safety event in Flynn Machinery, Mullingar. Photo: Damien Eagers
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

You are the best asset on your farm. This was the main message at the recent farm safety event held at Flynn's Machinery in Mullingar.

FBD risk management surveyors Myles Reilly and Ciaran Roche told farmers who attended the event that they can insure against everything on the farm but can't bring back a loved one.

"We talk about assets on your farm. People say to me that their diet feeder is the best asset on their farm or their rotary parlour. The best asset on your farm is you or your son or daughter - that's the most important asset on your farm," said Mr Reilly.

"It's not about insurance companies, it's about you and your family.

"It's about farmers, their sons, their daughters, brothers and cousins who have lost loved ones as a result of a farming accident and whose lives have been changed forever because of a farming accident. Nobody wants that to happen on their farm," added Mr Roche.

According to the 2017 Teagasc National Farm Accident Survey farm accidents have risen by 13pc in the last five years and by 31pc in the last 10 years. It found that between 2012 and 2017 11pc of farms had an accident and 2,814 accidents occurred.

Dairy farms had the highest accident rate at 18pc, followed by tillage at 12pc, sheep at 11pc, cattle rearing at 9pc and finishing at 8pc.

Some 42pc of accidents involved livestock and machinery accounted for 25pc, while two-thirds of accidents occurred in the farm yard.

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Around 92pc of accidents involved a family member and 80pc involved the farmer, while almost all farm accidents victims required medial treatment.

While the public perception is that bulls are the livestock that cause the most accidents, Mr Roche said that most fatalities are caused by cows, particularly around calving and testing time when both the farmer and animal are under pressure.

"When we look at fatalities and we look at livestock a lot of people talk about bulls, but most fatalities are caused by cows, and one of the most common times is when cows are calving so that's when you've to take the greatest care," he said.

"If you look at our claim statistics we see most injuries are caused at testing times and the loading and unloading of cattle. The farmer is under pressure, the cattle are under pressure and that's where we are seeing most of the incidents."

JJ Lenehan of Teagasc added that "you might have a quiet cow all year round but when the maternal instinct at calving time kicks in, that's when you have to be extra careful. Even a quiet animal could become aggressive."

The demonstration highlighted how the tractor is one of the most dangerous pieces of machinery on your farm and that issues like stress, lack of experience, over confidence and fatigue are reasons why accidents occur.

"Breaks are the most common cause of tractor fatalities.

"Human error, inexperience, not having the proper skills, fatigue, stress, not paying attention to what you're doing or if you want to get a job done extra fast can all lead to accidents happening," said Mr Roche. Both men advocated putting safety systems in place to ensure accidents don't occur.

"You need to have safe systems of work such as reverse parking your tractor or having a one-way system in your yard."

Mr Reilly said housekeeping is very important.

"It is very important as is good visibility and keeping the tractor clean. It's common sense," said Mr Reilly.

The men performed a demonstration which showed farmers the devastating effects a PTO shaft can have when not covered or operated safely. They also stated that children and older farmers are the most vulnerable people on Irish farms and need to be protected.

"When there's an accident on the farm, it's a mother or a brother gone for life, so it's a penalty for life. Agriculture only represents 6pc of the working population but year on year we're top of the league for accidents.

"Children and older farmers are where the accidents are happening. We need to get better at what we're at," said Mr Reilly.

"Be very careful with 14-year-olds driving the tractor around in the yard.

"They need proper training. I'm a big believer in allowing children on the farm, they need to see livestock being born but proper measures need to be put in place."

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