Safety authorities take steps to stop rising death toll on farms
Farmers who carry children under the age of seven in the cabs of tractors and farm machinery could face prosecution as safety authorities take tough steps to try and stop the rising death toll on farms.
In a year of tragedy on Irish farms, 23 people including children have lost their lives while every year about 2,000 people are injured on farms, making it by far the most dangerous workplace.
In RTÉ’s farming show, Ear to the Ground, Pat Griffin, from the Health and Safety Authority, said hardline measures may be needed to try and stop the loss of life.
“We have looked at the huge number of fatal accidents that have happened over the last 10 years. 176 people have been killed on farms. There are certain issues that are constantly causing fatal accidents and very serious injuries and we are looking at going straight to prosecution on a number of those issues,” he said.
“If a child is carried in the cab of a tractor or any other farm machinery under the age of seven we will go straight to prosecution. If we find a farmer has an open slurry tank and there is risk we may go straight to prosecution. It is not somewhere we want to go but we may have to go there.”
He said he believes there needs to be more action on an EU level to protect the lives of farmers.
“Right across Europe there is probably 1,000 farmers killed every year and yet there is nothing done on a European front to try and tackle that and I think that has to change.”
On the show, farmer Mike Broderick says farmers are playing Russian roulette with their lives by not adhering to safety standards.
The farmer from Portumna, Co Galway, said he got a wake-up call last spring when he almost lost his own life trying to save his cattle from fatal gas fumes in his shed while he was agitating slurry.
He said: “My natural reaction was to try and save them. There were two animals dead in a matter of seconds. Unknown to myself I was inhaling the gas too.
“I went to phone my neighbour. I didn’t have a phone in my pocket and had to go over to the house to make the call. I wouldn’t be here if I had the phone in my pocket because I wouldn’t have left the shed.
“I was hardly able to talk and felt this tightness in my chest. I went into hospital that night and they took a blood sample and it gave a high reading of gases.”
Ear to the Ground revealed that roughly half of fatal accidents relate directly to tractors and machinery while only 11% of non-fatal accidents relate to machinery which shows these types of accidents tend to have fatal consequences.
Bill Calanan, from the Department of Agriculture, said there are thousands of inspections carried out on farms every year but farmers need to take responsibility for their own safety.
“From the Department of Agriculture prospective our primary objective is trying to change attitudes and behaviours because farms are such a dynamic place.
“You may inspect today but the realities change in terms of the approach on the job tomorrow. We would like to see are farmers embracing the reality that the first thing is to approach every task safely as opposed to as quickly as possible,” he said
Mr Broderick urged farmers to think seriously about the chances they are taking with their lives while at work. “Just ask yourself if you are killed by gas while agitating slurry and you have a young family to try and provide for — you won’t do that from six feet under.”
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