Today marks the start of the fifth annual Farm Safety Week UK & Ireland, an initiative led by the IFA in Ireland, aiming to reduce the number of accidents on farms that continue to give farming the poorest safety record of any occupation in the country.
Farm Safety Week is supported by a number of agencies, including the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and members of the Farm Safety Partnership.
Farmers will be encouraged to take some time during the week to assess the safety of routine tasks. The campaign will focus on a different risk each day, including machinery and transport, falls, livestock and slurry, and child safety on farms.
Farming continues to have one of the poorest safety records of any sector in Ireland, last year 21 people lost their lives in farm accidents and 14 people have lost their lives so far in 2017. There are real concerns that if the number of farm deaths continue at the rate they have so far this year, the number of deaths in 2017 could be as bad as 2014 when 30 people died on Irish farms.
Reacting to these figures, Joe Healy, IFA President said: “The statistics are stark but statistics don’t give 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.
“Farm Safety Week is about confronting farmers with the realities behind the statistics, making them realise that they could, in fact, be the next statistic unless they take safety measures and change their work practices.
“The message we want to get out there is simple – always think safety first. The evidence is overwhelming; if you make time to discuss health and safety before doing a task, the chances of incurring an injury go way down.
“It is so important when preparing to undertake work on the farm that you always consider what are the risks associated with this task, and then put in place controls to manage those risks. This simple step of managing risks could save your life or prevent a serious injury from taking place.”
Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture said: “We must all take personal responsibility for safety on our farms. There have been far too many fatal accidents on farms in 2017. While there are many risks in farming, farming does not have to be a dangerous occupation. Behavioural change is what is required to prevent many accidents. It is a case of being aware of the dangers and taking the time to do what is necessary to minimise the risk.”
Pat Breen, Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said there is still a clear and urgent need to change the whole culture in relation to farm safety. “With 14 farm deaths so far in 2017 I am 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.”
The Minister also pointed to the findings of a recent ESRI report which identified the risks being taken by farmers throughout the country. The Minister noted that the ESRI study found that young farmers and dairy farmers are most likely to ignore the risks involved in the daily tasks they are carrying out on a farm and said this finding must be taken on board.
The Minister concluded by saying “I congratulate the IFA and all involved in Farm Safety Week and I commend the chosen themes for the week as ones that will resonate closely with the farming community itself”.
Martin O’ Halloran, HSA Chief Executive said: “Farming and food production play a crucial role in the life and economy of this country, but every year we in the HSA have to reluctantly report that agriculture has the poorest safety record of any occupation. Last year, the number of deaths on farms increased, with 21 reported in 2016 compared to 18 in 2015.
“All too often, accidents happen on our farms that are preventable, so we want to continue to raise awareness for everyone working on, or visiting, a working farm. The HSA is committed to working with our partners on initiatives like Farm Safety Week to inform their activities and drive forward improvements in safety performance. We know that we need to engage with farmers of all ages to help them tackle this poor safety record and make farms safer places to work.”
Stephanie Berkeley, Farm Safety Foundation, the charity behind Farm Safety Week UK & Ireland asks: “Farming as an industry is absolutely vital to Ireland’s economy. On a farm, as with any business, the number one resource is the people so why is it that year on year we are seeing these hard working and dedicated workers suffering life changing and life ending accidents?”
“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, not a slogan.”