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Today (Mon) marks the start of the seventh annual Farm Safety Week UK & Ireland, an initiative led by the IFA in Ireland, aiming to reduce the number of accidents on farms and bring about a change in culture that makes unsafe practices socially unacceptable. The message for this year’s campaign is: Save Lives. Think Safety – Farm Safely.

Farm Safety Week is supported by a number of agencies, including the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and members of the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee. Farming continues to have one of the poorest safety records of any sector in Ireland. Last year, 15 people lost their lives in farm accidents and 12 people have lost their lives so far in 2019.

Reacting to these figures, IFA President Joe Healy said: “The statistics are stark, but statistics don’t tell the whole story – they don’t tell you about the devastating impact a farm fatality has on families and communities; they don’t tell you the impact a farm accident can have on the rest of your life, on your ability to run the farm.

“Understanding the risks on and around a farm operation makes it easier to avoid dangers, and makes accidents less likely. However, all too often farmers do not recognise the risks on their farms, which makes it difficult to manage the problem.”

“That is why in 2018 IFA appointed a Farm Health and Safety Executive to implement a pilot farmer-to-farmer peer learning initiative at branch level, to advise farmers about potential risks and educate them to become safety ambassadors within their communities. The farmers involved in the initiative help to mentor each other by, for example, walking each other’s farms to identify potential risks and visualise how safety works in a real-life situation.

“This kind of informal learning has been shown to be effective because the people involved have the potential to adapt the programme to meet their needs and develop their own approaches to improve safety on the farm.”

Sharon McGuinness, Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority said: “The statistics show that farming is still the most dangerous sector, but this doesn’t have to be the case if appropriate tractor and machinery maintenance is carried out along with the operators receiving the necessary training. Farmers must take responsibility to prioritise safety, especially when working with tractors and machinery which are the biggest cause of fatal accidents. Farmers should keep all machinery in good working order and have the necessary competence and experience to operate.”

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said: “There are a lot of risks in farming but farming doesn’t have to be a dangerous occupation if you are aware of the risks. We have definitely seen an increased awareness of farm safety, thanks to initiatives like Farm Safety Week, and now we need to build this awareness into action and behavioural change. Farmers are very busy, particularly at this time of year, but it’s important to take some time to think about what could improve safety on your farm and in your work practices and then to follow through and make those changes”.

Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen has welcomed Farm Safety Week 2019 and the opportunity it presents to highlight the ongoing need for greater attention to safety in farming.  “There is still a clear and urgent need to change the whole culture in relation to farm safety. In light of the number of farm fatalities so far this year, I am  again calling on farmers, their families and their wider community, as well as farming organisations, to use their collective expertise and influence to spearhead the badly needed cultural and behavioural change at farm level in a combined effort to tackle this serious issue.”

Gerry Boyle, Director Teagasc said, “Teagasc strongly supports the Ireland & UK Farm Safety Week. Every season presents its own challenges on the farm. Many farmers think ‘farm safety last’ rather than ‘farm safety first’, but most accidents are avoidable. Simple factors such as habit, haste, fatigue, and improperly maintained machinery contribute to this perfect storm but this Farm Safety Week, we hope that by hearing the stories of other farmers who have had personal experience of farm accidents, we can get farmers of all ages to realise that this week, and every week, farm safety is a lifestyle.

For more information on Farm Safety Week visit www.ifa.ie/safety or follow @IFAmedia on Twitter using the hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek

About Farm Safety Week

Farm Safety Week was initiated by the Farm Safety Foundation. Farm Safety Week is a led by the IFA in Ireland, aiming to reduce the number of accidents on farms and bring about a culture of farm safety. Farm Safety Week started in the UK in 2013 and has grown to include England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; five nations with a single purpose; to reduce death and serious injuries in agriculture.

Events

In conjunction with speakers from Teagasc, Gardaí, ESB, Irish Coast Guard, HSE, HSA, local Fire and Rescue Service, FBD and FRS, IFA is hosting a number of Farm safety events during farm safety week.

On Tuesday a Farm safety evening in Kilkenny will be held on the farm of Andrew Phelan, Ballytarsney Mooncoin Co. Kilkenny X91 KH60 (7.30pm).

On Wednesday 18th July at 11.30am Kilcullen Mart will be hosting a Farm Safety Event. On Wednesday evening a Farm safety event is taking place on the farm of Michael Owens, Ballagh, Melough, Ballinasloe, Co Galway H53 SA48.

On Thursday evening in County Louth, Patrick McMahon, Ballybinady, Hackballscross, Dundalk A91X9Y4, will host the event.

Discounts

During Farm Safety Week, discounts on safety equipment are being offered by retailers locally.

About the Farm Safety Partnership

The Farm Safety Partnership in Ireland has been in place since 2002, is chaired by a HSA Board member and reports directly to the Board of the Health and Safety Authority. The current memberships includes; Construction Industry Federation, Irish Farmers Association, IOSH Rural Industries Section, Farm Relief Services Training Ltd, Department of Agriculture, Food, and Marine, Veterinary Council of Ireland, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association National Office, Health & Safety Authority, Veterinary Ireland, Teagasc, Professional Agricultural Contractors Association Ireland, Irish Rural Link, Agri Aware, Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, Institute of Technology Carlow, Health Services Executive, FBD Farm Insurance, Coillte and Macra Na Feirme.

With spring calving now underway on many Irish farms, IFA Health and Safety Executive William Shortall has urged farmers to be particularly vigilant to ensure their own safety.

An average, 9% of farm fatalities are caused by cow and heifer attacks each year, with farmers more vulnerable to accidents at this time of year due to tiredness brought on by the heavy workload of spring. This is compounded by the fact that heifers and cows can be unpredictable at calving time and may hit out without warning.

According to IFA Health and Safety Executive William Shortall, “Spring is the busiest time of year on many Irish farms. Farmers work around the clock, often needing to be up several times a night to check on animals. This can lead to severe tiredness, restricting a farmers ability to react quickly.”

The IFA has developed some useful tips for farmers to help keep them safe, including:

• Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a neighbour with a difficult cow or calving
• Know your limitations, you’re not as agile as you were this time last year
• Make sure the calving gate is operating properly
• Make sure the calving jack and ropes are fit for purpose
• Make sure all dogs and children are out of sight before entering the pen
• Make sure the cow is correctly locked into the calving gate
• Ensure calving pens have appropriate lighting
• Remember there is no such thing as a quite cow

With the national sheep flock of 2.5m ewes about to commence lambing, IFA National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy has issued a strong warning to all dog owners. He said “Dog owners can be held responsible for any losses involved in dog attacks on sheep, with serious financial and legal consequences. Farmers have a right to protect their sheep flock and can shoot a dog worrying, or about to worry their flock.”

Sean Dennehy said the incidents of dog attacks on sheep increase at this time of year. He said “In recent weeks we have reports of attacks from all over the country. In county Louth alone, we have reports of 42 sheep killed in the last 2 months.”

Sean Dennehy said marauding dogs can inflict horrendous damage on a sheep flock. Statistics collated by IFA indicate that the problem of dog attacks on sheep may be in the order of 300 to 400 attacks per annum, with 3,000 to 4,000 sheep injured and killed. Data on dog attacks gathered by the IFA shows an average of 11 sheep killed or injured per attack.

The IFA Sheep Farmers leader issued a stark warning to all dog owners of their responsibility to keep their pets are under control at all times. “Unfortunately, I am taking calls on a frequent basis from sheep farmers around the country who have suffered attacks. There are far too many dog owners not taking the responsibility that goes with owning a pet. Dog owners have an obligation to have their dog under control at all times”.

Sean Dennehy reminded all dog owners, including farmers, that it is a legal requirement that they microchip and register their dogs. He said under the Animal Health and Welfare Act all dogs must be microchipped and registered on an authorised database since March 31st 2016.

Sean Dennehy said IFA has a detailed Protocol to help farmers who encounter a dog attack on their sheep flock. The IFA protocol involves an easy-to- follow, 10-point Plan of Action covering what a farmer should do following a dog attack or sheep kill.

“Based on the feedback IFA gets from farmers who have had to deal with a dog attack on their flock, one of the biggest problems is the lack of information on what they should do, who they should contact and where can they get help.”

The IFA Protocol deals with these basic questions and also outlines important aspects of the law and how the dog warden service and the Garda can help. It also sets out how to keep a full record of the attack, which can be used as evidence at a later stage.

Sean Dennehy also called on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to re-run the TV advertisement campaign on responsible dog ownership from the 1980’s. He said the TV ad was an excellent reminder to warn dog owners about the dangers of letting their pet out at night and the serious damage they could do to a sheep flock. The key message was “Keep your dog under control. Running free he can be a killer.”

IFA’s Health and Safety Executive, William Shortall has urged farmers to take safety precautions when undertaking the spreading of slurry. As of yesterday (13 January) farmers in certain areas of the country are able to commence spreading. The main hazards associated with slurry are toxic slurry gas, slurry tank and lagoon openings and the slurry spreader PTO shaft.

“Spreading slurry is potentially one of the most hazardous activities that a farmer undertakes. The two main risks that present are drowning and gas poisoning. We are urging farmers not to take unnecessary risks and follow simple steps to ensure their own safety and that of their animals,” said William Shortall.

Steps farmers should take include;

• Make sure all children and pets are kept secure and away from the farmyard
• Only agitate on a windy day
• Open all shed doors and shutters to allow airflow through the shed being agitated
• After starting agitating leave the area for 30 min to allow slurry gases to dissipate
• Recover agitating points when not in use

Further information is also available on the Health & Safety Authority website.

Commenting on the figures released today by the Health & Safety Authority, IFA’s Health & Safety Executive William Shortall said 2019 would see the rollout of IFA’s peer-to-peer farm safety learning initiative.

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