Farming sector must get serious about safety
THE bucolic scenes around the countryside this weekend will be remembered for all the wrong reasons by two families in Limerick and Laois after two more tragic farm accidents. The deaths of a nine year-old girl and a 14 year-old boy highlight the ever-present dangers that are inherent in every farmyard.
Farmers are enjoying being able to get through the season's work in good conditions for the first time in many years.
But more of them need to pause for a moment during this busy period to consider the appalling track record in health and safety that now hangs over the sector.
Despite accounting for less than 5pc of the national labour force, farming, forestry and fishing account for a terrible 44pc of all workplace fatalities.
This statistic is reflected in the offhand approach to safety at farm level – one in three farmers doesn't even have the legal minimum of a farm-safety statement.
Compare this to the other traditionally dangerous sector – construction.
Despite counting more employees among its ranks, the records show that the construction sector notches up less than a third of the number of fatalities in farming, fishing and forestry.
Construction has halved the number of fatalities on its sites in the past decade.
The main impetus for this has been the huge amount of inspections and heavy fines that the sector has been subjected to by the Health and Safety Authority.
Farm communities cannot expect anything other than more dreaded inspections and fines if they do not prove that they are serious about protecting their own.