Agri fatality rates eight times higher than other Irish industries

The level of farm accidents is not decreasing. Emergency Medicine Specialist gives advice on how to keep safe 
Agri fatality rates eight times higher than other Irish industries

Coxwain Martin Moriarty, Valentia RNLI boat taking part in a test run emergency plan to Scellig Mhicil with members of The Civil Defence, ,Garda Siochana, Valentia and Waterville Coast Guard, HSE Ambulance Crew, Waterford and Shanon Coast Guard Helicopters, Medico, Cork University Hospital, co-ordinated by Irish Rope Access.

Fatality rates associated with injury in Ireland's Agri/aqua sector are up to eight times higher than any other Irish Industry, according to Dr Jason van der Velde, Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine Specialist and clinical lead HSE National Telemedicine Support Unit (Medico Cork). 

"Our parents helping on the family farm aged over 65 years make up 50% of all annual fatalities; our sons and daughters living on the farm 23%. In those that sustain life-threatening or life-changing injuries on farms, about 200 per year, 27% are over 65 years and 6% are children," he said.

Dr. Jason van der Velde, Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine Specialist and clinical lead HSE National Telemedicine Support Unit (Medico Cork).
Dr. Jason van der Velde, Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine Specialist and clinical lead HSE National Telemedicine Support Unit (Medico Cork).

Whilst Cork University Hospital try their best to put the pieces back together in the Emergency Department, they adopt a family first preventative approach to keeping safe on the farm.

Stay connected 

"A farmer or their family member badly injured in a remote part of their farm, who is not found until they’ve failed to return for dinner, is an all too common scenario. More distressing is finding an isolated farmer (of all ages) lying injured or ill where they’ve fallen or collapsed a number of days previously."

According to van der Velde, a strategy to staying connected has to be more robust than simply owning a mobile telephone, "lack of mobile coverage aside, you have to be conscious and able to use technology. Look after your community and family by checking in at regular intervals during the day and ensure that someone knows where you will be working."

Communicate your location 

Considerable effort has been put into improving emergency service response in rural Ireland, from first responder schemes to Aeromedical services.

"We literally can land next to you in minutes, but only if we know your exact location. Valuable time is lost because people don’t either know their Eircode or the Eircode closest to the field they are working in. If you’re a contractor, take a moment to note the Eircode of the location you are working in."

D.A.R.T — Have a rescue plan 

Farmers know their working environment and machinery best. Van der Velde asks: "What would you do if a family member got struck by a cow in the milking shed? How would you manage a bull that has just attacked? Think about it and plan for it."

He gives advice on how to dismantle a piece of machinery should someone get stuck or pinned, he says the simple mnemonic D.A.R.T. is helpful to remember when someone is trapped in a machine.

Protect yourself and others as agri/aqua sector fatalities remain high in Ireland.
Protect yourself and others as agri/aqua sector fatalities remain high in Ireland.

  • D stands for Disengage. STOP the machine and Disengage whatever is pulling the limb into it.
  • A is for Analgesia. This is usually a chain or drive belt - cut it. Wait for the emergency services if you can administer Analgesia.
  • R stands for Reverse — manually reverse the mechanism to release the limb.
  • T stands for Tourniquet — be prepared to manage bleeding as the limb comes out of the machine.

He also advises people to be slurry aware and to be vigilant to anyone collapsing near any source of slurry. "DO NOT rush in to rescue them without a plan and proper ventilation of the area. If in doubt, await the Fire Services," he warns.

Know how to save a life or a limb

The Prehospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) tightly regulates the first aid industry, "do one of their approved first aid courses. As unpalatable as it is, the statistics make it clear that farm families need to be able to perform First Aid," he concluded. 

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