Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Stress and fatigue are factors in farm safety crisis

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Stress from perceived over regulation and paper-work is an important contributor to the unacceptably high incidence of accidents, according to a study commissioned by the HSA.

Researchers found that the influence of "excessive fatigue, poor lighting and weather were greater than anticipated."

They were also surprised by the "importance farmers place in having the right tool for the job as an influencer on safety performance".

The research, carried out by GL Noble Denton, also confirmed that farmers are keen to improve the safety record on their holdings and that there was a "strong intention to work safely" among farmers.

The study reported that some of the reasons for the high accident rate among farmers may be contributed to by excessive self-confidence, an optimistic bias, and feeling of immunity to accident or injury.

The HSA believe that the challenge to bring the accident rate down on farms will be heightened by the expected expansion on Irish farms in the coming years following quota abolition, which is likely to result in increases in stock numbers and associated work activity.

Martin O'Halloran, CEO, HSA told the Oireachtas Joint Committee On Agriculture, Food and Marine that there was a significant risk that the Irish agri-food sector could have its 'clean, green' brand image tarnished by the "catastrophic" fatality rate.

He said that this could, in turn, restrict the growth in the sector.

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Analysis of the 30 fatalities on farms in 2014, show that harvest time is the most dangerous with almost half the fatalities occurring in May, August and September.

Age is the other clear factor, with half of those who died in farm related accidents either under 18 years or over 65 years.

The youngest was the tragic loss of a one year old child in a tractor-related accident in Co Cork in May.

At the other end of the spectrum, four farmers in their 80s also died in farm accidents last year, with the oldest being an 84 year old who was attacked by a cow in Donegal.

Comparing the decade 2005-2014 to the pattern in 2014 tractor and machinery related fatalities increased from 50pc to 60pc and fatalities caused by livestock increased from 13pc to 16pc, while death from drownings were halved and fatalities from falls dropped to one third.


In relation to farm injuries, the HSA state that the statistics are more difficult to compile due to the gross under reporting of non-fatal incidents and injuries by farmers.

The average is just 100 per year despite the legal obligation to report all accidents that result in injury.

The findings of the National Farm Survey by Teagasc in 2011 estimated that farm injuries had increased by 35pc over the 2006 figure to 2,459 injuries per 100,000 farms.

A Farming Independent survey of over 1,000 farmers found that almost one in every five farmers stated that they had suffered an injury which required hospitalisation.

However, this figure jumped to one in four in the case of dairy farmers, those over 65 years, and farmers on holdings of more than 200ac.

By age farmers in the 35-50 years category were the safest, with farms under 100ac having the lowest rates of injury, and cereal growers the least likely to be injured.

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