There’s been a lot of work done by farmers, farm organisations and health and safety authorities to ensure that the farm is as safe a workplace as possible. Yet farming remains one of the most hazardous occupations in the country, according to Dr Shane Whelan, AIB Agri Sector Specialist. Last year alone, this sector accounted for more than half of all Irish workplace fatalities, yet only 6% of the workforce are engaged in it. That’s only the tip of the iceberg when you take into account the 2,500-plus families impacted by serious farm accidents each year.
Why Is This?
Unlike more standardised working environments like an office or factory, farming often requires an array of activities to be completed under time pressure and within defined windows of opportunity. Livestock, falls and machinery are the top culprits when it comes to accidents on Irish farms, which unfortunately have been on the rise in recent years. “Farming has become more mechanised”, says Shane. “It’s also more of a solitary occupation now compared to previous years, where you might have had more members of the family or neighbours working together.” Taking these factors into account, it’s no surprise to learn that more than half of fatal accidents on farms in recent years involved machinery.
What Are the Best Ways to Stay Safe on the Farm?
At the end of the day, it’s up to everyone involved in farming activity to be mindful of safety. “It’s important for individuals to make farm safety a priority, first and foremost,” Shane explains. “Small changes can make all the difference.”
Here are some easy-to-implement tips to make your farm a safer place for everyone:
1. Don’t Act in Haste
Farmers are often under time pressure, which can mean they feel the need to move quickly. Make sure to stop and reflect on what could go wrong before acting. Identify hazards and take action as necessary – for example, be sure to complete the Farm Safety Code of Practice Risk Assessment document for your farm. “A second spared is better than a lifetime lost or changed,” says Shane.
2. Plan the Day
Time management can be difficult, but putting a realistic plan in place for your day is important. “Manage your time efficiently,” Shane advises. “Planning your day will give you foresight into any potential issues that may arise, and you’ll be more aware of safety hazards around them.”
3. Get Some Rest
Lack of sleep can slow your reaction times and impair concentration. “As is the case in any job, your performance will slacken if you’re tired. Use contractors and additional workers where needed.”
4. Keep it Neat & Tidy
It may seem like a simple fix, but a tidy work environment can help avoid accidents too. “Keep your storage areas tidy – it will give you more control over your work environment.”
5. Take Particular Care with Children and the Elderly
Children don’t have the same ability as adults to analyse situations and make appropriate decisions. Similarly, as we age, our ability to manage and maintain the same workload decreases, as does our responsiveness. Bear this in mind if you have ageing friends, family or neighbours who work on farms, as they may be more at risk of having an accident.
Shane’s final thoughts on safety during this busy time of the year? “Don’t forget, not only are there financial implications to farming accidents, there are also emotional implications for you and your family. Be smart, be vigilant – don’t regret it” later