Farming forum demands renewed drive to tackle farm safety

Minister Pat Breen and Minister Michael Creed meet farming organisations in a renewed drive to tackle farm accidents and deaths on Tuesday.

Both ministers have expressed a “strong desire” to make the summer of 2017 a safe summer for farm families.

In a meeting with leaders from farm organisations they called on the farming community to collectively, and individually, re-double their efforts to reduce and eliminate farm accidents and fatalities.

This is especially timely during the summer season and with school holidays just around the corner there will be an increased presence of children on the farm.

Minister Breen said that the Government is committed to tackling farm safety issues and he commended the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) for their work with the farming sector, and welcomed the Authority’s new Code of Practice on Preventing Injury and Occupational ill Health in Agriculture.

Both Ministers highlighted the starkness of the statistics associated with farming.

Across all work sectors 520 people were killed in work-related accidents in the period 2007 – 2016 while in the last seven years, 138 people have been killed in farm accidents alone, making farming the most dangerous occupation in terms of fatalities.

In the first four months of this year alone, there were 11 fatal accidents on Irish farms.

The recent ESRI Report, which Minister Breen launched last week, on “Risk Taking and Accidents on Irish Farms” has provided a useful insight into the conditions, attitudes and behaviours that can – often unwittingly – lead to accidents and fatalities on farms in Ireland. It also highlighted some revealing statistics.

For example, 27{b28040870e2dde01f25bc5b483275391226143b34751c4bb8f1feeecaec925a1} – more than one in four – of those interviewed by the ESRI had experienced a “near miss” on the farm in previous 10 years. One in eight (12{b28040870e2dde01f25bc5b483275391226143b34751c4bb8f1feeecaec925a1}) had experienced an actual accident.

These are unacceptably high figures relative to other sectors.

The repercussions of a fatality or an accident can be catastrophic for a farm family – it can leave a victim unable to continue to work effectively on their farm, can lead to hardship and financial difficulties for years to come and can even lead to the loss of the family home.

Minister Breen said that there is still a clear and urgent need to change the whole culture in relation to farm safety. “I am calling on the farming community, and the organisations that represent it, to use their collective expertise and influence to spearhead cultural and behavioural change at farm level.”

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, echoed the call.

“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.”

Farming is a physical activity and while exposure to risks cannot be totally avoided, they must be – and can be – managed and controlled. The identification, management and control of risk on the farm undoubtedly requires better attention.

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