The deceased was found… are the chilling words found not once but seven times in the latest press release from the Health and Safety Authority.

It contains a three-line or a four-line description of how each of the seven people have lost their lives in work-related accidents on farms up to the first week of July.

Machinery accidents

Farm machinery was involved in all but one case. Two of the victims were found trapped under loaders. One ended up under a tractor, another under a quad bike.

Farming continues to be the most dangerous sector in which to work, with annual fatalities in recent years as high as 50% of the overall total from a sector that employs just 6% of the workforce.

From 2011 to 2015, 106 people were killed on farms and many thousands more seriously injured.

From 2004-13, there were 176 fatal farm accidents; a shocking statistic, says Agriculture Minister Michael Creed.

Trying to make sense of the disastrous death toll, Minister for Employment and Small Business Pat Breen has said there is no task so urgent or important to justify risking death or serious injury.

Preventable tragedies

The vast majority of accidents on farms are preventable and levels of awareness within farming communities are high, and he urged farmers to put safety at the centre of their activities and take just a few minutes each day to think about what they’re doing.

His take-home message is to set aside some time to make sure an accident doesn’t occur. “Take five minutes to do whatever is necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

Frequent hazards

Special care is needed when working with machinery and livestock, still the hazards causing the majority of fatal and serious injury, and therefore the tasks which must be carried out with greater care.

Jim Phelan, HSA board member and chairman of the Farm Safety Partnership, gave this advice: “Make sure the tractor is in perfect working order, that the PTO guard is in place, get the handbrake fixed, be alert for any signs of aggressiveness in livestock, stay off fragile roofs.”

Inevitably, more and more legal pressure will be brought on farmers to comply with health and safety measures, if the high death toll continues.

There has long been a legal duty to conduct a Risk Assessment to ensure that work is carried out safely. 

Now, there are new standards for agricultural vehicles. For example, more powerful braking systems will be required for agricultural vehicles operating faster than 40 km/h.

Appropriate lighting

Agricultural vehicles must have appropriate lighting.

There is new legislation to ensure that farm pesticides are used responsibly, safely and effectively, while safeguarding the environment.

Since last November, farmers who apply pesticides must have completed a training course. Many farmers have complained about the new laws. 

But they can expect more and more, because something has to be done after the 30 fatal farm accidents in 2014 and and 18 in 2015, plus an estimated 2,500 serious accidents per year.


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