Farms still most risky workplace as deaths soar

The number of people killed in workplace accidents rose again last year, with the number of fatalities in the farm sector soaring by 87%.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) investigated 55 workplace deaths in 2014, up 17% from the previous year when 47 died.

For the fifth year in a row, agriculture remained the most dangerous sector, accounting for more than half of all workplace fatalities in 2014, including five children.

It had been the highest number of people killed in agriculture for 20 years.

Overall, more people died at work last year than in any year since 2008, prompting concern from the HSA.

Figures showed nine people died in Co Cork, the most of any county, while eight people lost their lives while at work in Dublin and seven in Tipperary.

The CEO of the HSA, Mark O’Halloran, said the number of workplace deaths involving vehicles was “particularly alarming”.

Of the 29 deaths involving vehicles, 18 were farm-related, with tractors involved in the majority of deaths.

Overall, the number of workplace fatalities involving vehicles was up 13% last year. The HSA said there needed to be a renewed focus on people driving to work, reversing and slow speed manoeuvres in vehicles, and vehicle maintenance and repairs.

While the number of farming deaths increased steeply, fatalities in other sectors fell last year.

Mr O’Halloran said: “The number of fatal accidents that occurred on farms last year was the highest in over 20 years. In May of 2014 alone there were five people killed.

“It is particularly tragic that five children lost their lives on Irish farms last year.

“We do note that each year many fatal accidents involve self-employed persons, so we will continue to try to provide assistance and support to small business owners with an emphasis on safety around vehicles.

“We will also further our collaboration with other agencies and representative bodies that have an interest in workplace health and safety.”

There has been an increased focus on farm safety following the spate of deaths linked to agriculture in recent years, with Embrace Farm — set up by Laois couple Brian and Norma Rohan following the death of Brian’s father — launching their ‘What’s Left Behind’ campaign in September.

Mr Rohan said: “One death is too many, but 30 in a year is absolutely shocking.”

He said that educating the younger generations, including the children and grandchildren of farmers, was “the key” to boosting safety of farms, as “the 50-, 60-, 70-year-olds that are taking those risks the whole time are not going to change that behaviour overnight”.

Embrace Farm will have a stand at this week’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition and is exploring other methods of getting the message of farm safety across to those working in the sector.

As for the suggestion by EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan that Single Farm Payments be withheld from farmers unless certain safety criteria are met, Mr Rohan said: “Policing that is going to be the big problem.”

Meanwhile, the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) has launched a new campaign encouraging fishermen to focus on vessel stability, with January the most dangerous time at sea.


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