The remarkable and successful level of public awareness of the need to flatten the Covid infection curve must be matched by farmers in order to reduce farm accidents, said four government ministers who came together last week to highlight the need for farmers to play their part in reducing farm accidents.
Faced with an overwhelming public health imperative, practices such as physical distancing, coughing etiquette, and hand sanitising, became the norm.
“We need a similar and immediate effort if we are to make a real impact on the prevalence of farm incidents,” said the ministers.
“Farm safety has to be built into our DNA. We have demonstrated with our collective response to Covid that this can be done.”
In one of his last duties as agriculture, food and the marine minister, Michael Creed joined with his colleague, minister for business, enterprise and innovation Heather Humphreys, and with Northern Ireland’s minister for agriculture, environment and rural affairs Edwin Poots, and minister for the economy Diane Dodds, to issue a public statement.
They said: ‘‘We all have a long association with farming, and have all seen first-hand the devastation that follows farm incidents and fatalities. It is very concerning to see a surge in the number of fatal farm incidents on our farms.
“This year, there have been 16 fatal incidents on farms on the island of Ireland, with 13 fatal incidents in Ireland and three fatal incidents in Northern Ireland.
“The majority of these accidents have occurred during the Covid-19 restrictions and, in particular, it is sad to see the number of children and older people that have died on our farms in recent weeks.
“Three children and nine people over 65 have died this year. Fourteen deaths occurred during the Covid-19 restrictions.
“Research shows that farmers and contractors are generally aware of the risks, but often don’t adhere to the safety rules or take specific steps to ensure that the work they are engaged in can be done safely.
“Farm safety cannot be left to someone else.
“It has to be lived by the farmer, by all of us, and built into the routine. We are appealing to farmers and those working on farms to take time to think about farm safety every morning, before you go out into the yard. You should always plan your work, take a moment to stop and think.”
The ministers said farmers should ask themselves:
How am I going to do this job safely?
Do I have everything I need?
Are there other people or hazards (machinery, obstructions, livestock) in the area I’m working in?
The ministers said farms are high-risk workplaces, but farming does not have to be dangerous.
Simple basic precautions can reduce risks and prevent future accidents.