Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

Viewpoint: A five-minute chat that can save lives

The busy summer months when the silage campaign, and later the grain harvest get underway, are the most dangerous in terms of loss of life on farm
The busy summer months when the silage campaign, and later the grain harvest get underway, are the most dangerous in terms of loss of life on farm
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

A TRIP down the N7 in recent days showed a flurry of activity with field after field of silage being cut in between the frequent showers.

It was a swift reminder that farmers are heading into a busy season, and it comes just as many schoolchildren are freed from the classroom for the summer.

The flurry of activity, combined with the machinery on the move, and the time constraints as farmers try to beat the weather unquestionably adds up to heightened danger on farms.

Last year saw a startling jump in farm deaths with 30 lives lost, tragically including five children. It was a shocking increase from 16 deaths in 2013. It was the fifth successive year that the agriculture sector had recorded the highest number of deaths.

Yet there has been a growing awareness in recent months of farm safety, with the powerful 'What's Left Behind' campaign depicting the heartbreak that ensues when a loved one is lost on the farm.

Brian and Norma Rohan set up the Embrace Farm group in memory of Brian's father Liam, an experienced ploughman who tragically lost his life repairing a harvesting machine. They have warned that many dairy farmers are facing increased workloads and stress as they increase herd size.

"One of those videos featured a little boy whose father spoke about how he died after falling into a soak-pit on the family farm. We had a call from a father in Cork who immediately called in a digger to fill in a hole on their farm.

"On Christmas day they took a minute out to think about the young boy and talk of farm safety on their farm," said Norma.

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Mother-of-two Norma has urged families to take five minutes to discuss safety on their own farms.

It's a potential life and death issue unlike the hot topic this week - the publication of farmers' EU subsidy payment details on the Department's website.

There's one man who has had the difficult task of walking through many gates to factories and farmyards after tragedy has struck.

"The amount of time I have seen children three and four abreast on tractors or on other farm machinery is just shocking," said Pat Griffin senior inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

"Most farmers today spent their own youth running freely around their home farms and hopping onto tractors and quads and they see it as a lifestyle norm for their own children. But what they are forgetting is that Irish farms today are different. They are much busier workplaces now and contain much heavier, faster and more dangerous machinery. That's the difference."

It may be time to take a step back from the busy day-to-day jobs to just have that five-minute conversation.

Indo Farming