Farmers must consider retiring earlier to extend the sector’s life expectancy, said Dr Sharon McGuinness, CEO, Health Service Authority.
Dr McGuinness told attendees at the ‘Safeguarding the Future of Farming’ event in Teagasc, Moorepark Food Research Centre, Co Cork, that 75% of all farm deaths from from 2004-2017, 172 of the 229 fatalities, were people aged over 50.
She said the time has come to ask the question if farmers should be working on farms after the age of retirement.
“Agricultural fatalities are predominantly seen in individuals aged over-50. That is not a good fact,” said Dr McGuinness. “No other workplace would see this happen because in other industries people retire, they don’t work into their 70s, 80s, even 90s. Should farmers be working past this age?”
Hearing loss, sight loss and other age-related issues are serious contributing factors to farm-related injuries and fatalities, remarked Dr McGuinness.
“Can farmers keep active on the farm without getting into that big tractor or the quad? It is a difficult one, but we need to have this conversation,” she said.
Teagasc hosted the event in association with FBD Insurance and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).
The agriculture sector, which represents about 6% of the Irish workforce, in most years has accounted for up to 50% of all work-related deaths from 2004-17.
Fiona Muldoon, CEO, FBD Insurance, said: “Not having safety at the top of the priority list has not worked out so well for farmers and there is no escaping the stark statistics. The 2013-2017 Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS) found that farm accidents have risen by 13% in that five-year period and by 31% in the last 10 years. The survey found that, 11% of farms have had a serious accident and, in total, 2,814 accidents occurred annually.
“We are only a quarter way into 2019 and we have five confirmed farm-related deaths recorded so far, according to the HSA. While FBD can help with the financial loss, the grief and pain that accompany all serious and fatal accidents is immense and no amount of money ever gives a family back what is lost, and I would like to extend my sympathy to all farm families and communities affected.”
All of the speakers looked at approaches to tackle the key causes of farm accidents in a constructive way. Other speakers included: Andrew Doyle, Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture; Marese Damery, Health Check manager, Irish Heart Foundation; and Macra na Feirme’s John Keane and Johnathan Dwyer.
The event also featured practical demonstrations on a live farm. Students from St Brogan’s College, Cork, and CBS The Green, Kerry, presented their BT Young Scientist Exhibition 2019 farm safety projects.