Older farmers most likely to be killed in work-related accidents

Fourteen elderly farmers, a 94-year-old man, and a one-year-old toddler were among those killed in workplace accidents in 2017.

A total of 47 people — 45 of them male — lost their lives in various incidents, but half of all of the deaths occurred on farms, making farming the deadliest occupation for the eighth year in a row.

Older farmers were most at risk as 14 of the 24 people killed on farms were over the age of 65. The Health and Safety Authority said the tragedies pointed to a need for a culture change on Irish farms.

Chief executive Martin O’Halloran said: “Everyone involved in farming must aim to make whatever changes are necessary to work practices, to stop these accidents occurring each year. That means safety must be paramount when carrying out any work, especially with tractors or farm machinery.

“We have seen 14 elderly farmers killed this year, many of them working alone at the time of the accident. Finding supports for elderly farmers or farmers working alone is something that needs to be addressed.”

Mr O’Halloran said the HSA would continue to play its part but emphasised: “Safe farming has to happen every day, not just after an inspection. We need to make this a fundamental part of farming culture. Until it is, we will continue to have devastation and carnage on our farms.”

After agriculture, the construction and transport sectors had the highest number of fatalities with six deaths each, and accidents involving vehicles were the biggest single cause of deaths.

“We have over 2m people at work and this is a positive development. However, this will lead to increased traffic and movement of vehicles in workplaces creating hazards that must be managed,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“Regardless of the sector, where we have people and vehicles moving in close proximity, the danger is elevated. These dangers are greatly reduced when everyone is aware of the hazards and safe systems of work are implemented.”

The youngest fatal accident victim was a one-year-old boy killed when he was struck by a digger on a farm in Co Kilkenny, while the oldest was a 94-year-old Co Laois man who died in a fall at a garage inspection pit.

Accidents involving vehicles caused 21 of the deaths last year while falls from height, which killed six, was the second most common cause of fatalities.

Of all those who died, 18 were self-employed, 15 were employees and seven were family workers.

The deaths include the four crew members of Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 which crashed off Co Mayo last March.


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