Cormac MacConnell: One of the State’s most dangerous jobs

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and Minister of State Ged Nash officially launching the Health and Safety Authority's during a 'farm safety walk' hosted by Teagasc on the farm of Andrew Purcell and Alf McGlew.

Will it be you next?
Are you taking every precaution, every day you go out to work the farm, to ensure that you will still be around the place, hale and hearty tomorrow morning?

Or will you be the next statistic to arise from farm carelessness?

Will it be your neighbours who will have to do the milking and the feeding and the other chores, for the week it takes to wake you and to bury you beneath a swathe of green grass which you will never see growing?

Will it be for you that the chapel bell tolls?

Will you, through losing the head when the peak season begins, and through being careless because of that, become the latest man or woman in one of the most dangerous workplace areas in the State, who will directly kill or maim one of your own little children in the yard with a distracted tractor or jeep or other piece of agricultural plant?

Or will it be the slurry pit that will get you, and maybe the child or a colleague as well? Or will you fall victim to the fierce power of an improperly protected PTO, to which flesh and sinew is merely jelly?

Or will you be crushed against the wall by your own tractor? Or electrocuted because of an overloaded power point within?

Maybe you will become another statistic because of a fall from a height you should never have mounted in the first place, but did so, for whatever reason. Maybe the tractor overturned when required to perform some function beyond it, when the weather was changing and the rain was coming, and time was against you.

Or maybe you got careless once too often one evening, with the young bull that had always been so quiet you treated him like a suck calf?

Or was it that you came dashing at speed from the meadow with the tractor and trailer in the height of the silage-saving, right on to the main road and into the path of a juggernaut truck whose driver had no chance at all to save your life? Is that the way it will be, when you add your name to the statistics of avoidable farm deaths, of which there has been a near epidemic in recent years?

Think about it for a moment, here and now — and maybe that moment could be a golden one for you and yours, and for the entire farm your family have worked for generations.

Think about the circumstances surrounding the local fatal farm accidents you know of... and ask yourself if it could easily enough have been avoided by the exercise of a little more caution and plain commonsense.

You know the answer to that one already.

As a reporter for both local and national newspapers all my working life, based in all four provinces, it was part of my weekly work to cover literally thousands of inquests.

Many of them, especially in the busier seasons of the years, the months from now on, had to be held because of farm accidents and the resultant tragedies.

Inquests are often held in courthouses. But the old courthouses, always crowded to the doors for court sittings, buzzing with the cut and thrust of legal battles, always sound eerily different at inquests.

They are, you see, nearly empty, except for the few professionals of tragedy like the coroner and the doctor and a Garda or two, and a muted formal jury whose only role, really, is to return a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence.

Inquests are very sad affairs. And every scenario I have briefly sketched out above is one whose details I have heard echoing out through the old cold bowels of the courtrooms hundreds and hundreds of times.

Sadly, like the routine expressions of sympathy by the coroner and the other parties present, that is indeed the pure truth.

Try then, for your own sake, for that of your family, and for your community, to avoid becoming just another courthouse inquest echo, just another statistic.


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