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Safety campaign aims to halve farm fatalities

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has launched a hard-hitting new safety campaign aimed at halving the number of fatalities in the farm sector.

Entitled 'I'm the lucky one', the campaign features pictures of Carlow farmer Norman Bradley (below), who lost an arm in an accident involving a diet feeder.

The total spend will amount to €250,000 and involves radio and newspaper adverts plus posters and a digital media adverts.

Farming remains the most dangerous occupation in Ireland, with 20 people losing their lives in farm related accidents so far this year.

This figure is down from 26 last year but the HSA is adamant that the figures can be brought down further if farmers stop taking risks.

Ireland actually rates very well compared to other countries in terms of farm safety. Figures compiled over the last decade show that fatalities within the farm sector is 15-16 per 100,000. The EU average is 12 per 100,000, but Britain has the best safety record at eight per 100,000. The US and Germany are at the higher end of the spectrum, with both countries on 30 per 100,000.

Pat Griffin, head of agriculture policy with the HSA, said that achieving the British safety levels was well within the capability of the Irish farm sector.

"The farm safety campaign is trying to drive home the message that someone is killed on a farm on average every two weeks in Ireland. It can happen to you or someone in your family but it need not," Mr Griffin said.

"Deaths and long term disability and medical expenses can be avoided if farmers heed the brave message from an injured farmer to stop taking risks," he added.

Mr Griffin said that while HSA inspectors wanted to help and assist farmers in actively managing safety and the risks that farmers face in farming, he warned that farmers who persistently neglected safety and have the same defects on return visits would run the risk of prosecution and court fines.

At a press briefing last week, HSA officials said targeted inspections of farms with a history of health and safety infringements would start early in the new year.

Mr Griffin said that including farm safety as an element of cross compliance inspections for the Single Farm Payments (SFP) remained an option for the HSA.

While such a move had been "off the table" for a while, he said it could be "revisited" if things didn't improve. He said there was an acceptance that farmers would change their behaviour if they "were hit in the pocket".

Tractors and machinery remain the main causes of farm accidents, accounting for 50pc of deaths. Accidents with livestock were the other big killer.

"Farmers must realise that when they go to work with tractors and machinery they are doing one of the most dangerous jobs in Ireland today," Mr Griffin said.

"Fitting and maintaining PTO covers is critical, working with an uncovered PTO or damaged or incomplete guard is actually risking death or amputations. Fully guarding your PTO reduces the risk to zero.

"Other elements of machinery safety are obviously keeping machinery properly maintained, having good brakes, stopping moving parts and switching off before diving in to unblock or do repairs," he added.

Mr Griffin accepted that it was far more difficult to reduce the risks of livestock deaths and injury as you were dealing with unpredictable animals.

"With some thought properly designed handling facilities, culling or breeding out aggressive animals and awareness of the risks can help prevent a good proportion of the deaths and injury," Mr Griffin said.

Indo Farming