HSA urges families to sharpen focus on farm safety

HSA urges families to sharpen focus on farm safety

The Health and Safety Authority is urging farming families to be extra vigilant, with so many people spending more time on the farm this year.

Of particular note, the HSA has warned, the advent of Covid-19 has meant that children of farming families are spending more time at home due to the temporary closure of schools.

The HSA's concern is that this change in routine could lead to a spike in child fatalities on Irish farms this year.

HSA inspector Pat Griffin said: "Farms are by far the most dangerous places of work in Ireland that we are concerned about this year, in that we may get a spike in child deaths in 2020".

HSA inspector Pat Griffin, advising caution for children on farms.
HSA inspector Pat Griffin, advising caution for children on farms.

He said people usually involved in off-farm work are now around the farm more often, and children are also off school, which means the risk of injury is greatly increased by both inexperienced adults and unaware children.

Mr Griffin also said that the most vulnerable people are young children and older adults. Last year 13 of the 18 people who were killed on Irish farms were aged over 60.

Mr Griffin said: "We would appeal to farmers to please, please look at child safety, children are at home for an extended period of time and may want to get out and down the yard. We would appeal to farmers to go down the yard with their children, look at the risks and eliminate them if possible."

The authority, which investigates all workplace fatalities, said that more children are on farms due to school closures amid Covid-19 restrictions, which means there could be an increased risk.

The HSA's statistics for 2019 showed that Agriculture remains the most dangerous sector in which to work with 18 deaths last year. In most years, older farmers are most at risk. Almost three in every four farm fatalities last year involved people 60 and older

However, the farm fatalities recorded thus far for 2020 have also included a five-year-old boy who died on his family's farm in Co Roscommon.

HSA's chief executive, Dr Sharon McGuinness, has also drawn attention to the statistics showing a high incidence of fatal accidents among older farmers.

HSA's chief executive, Dr Sharon McGuinness, says statistics show older farmers face a high risk on farms.
HSA's chief executive, Dr Sharon McGuinness, says statistics show older farmers face a high risk on farms.

Dr McGuinness said farmers must recognise their limitations as they age which may affect their ability to work.

“As farmers get older, they must adjust their work practices to make sure that they avoid injury.

“I would urge people to really take on board the dangers around farming whenever working with livestock, slurry or machinery.

“Farmers think it’ll never happen to them but sadly as we have seen, all it takes is a few seconds for a serious injury or death to occur,” said Dr McGuinness.

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