That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, speaks to Francis Bligh (FB), Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist. They discuss farm accidents in Ireland and Bligh outlines farmers can reduce fatalities and serious injuries.
Farm accidents in Ireland
TF: How can Ireland reduce farm fatalities and injuries?
FB: Farming is a great way of life, but it is also a very hazardous occupation.
HSA data shows that, sadly, 210 people have lost their lives on farms in the last ten years and 4 people so far this year.
This is much lower than previous years, but we must collectively work hard to keep this number down.
Non-fatal injury rates on farms are also a cause for ongoing concern.
Improving safety culture across the entire agricultural industry will reduce injuries. Changing behaviour through culture change takes time and hard work.
It is the responsibility of everyone in the industry to drive that change.
Safety must be at the forefront of the thoughts and actions of policymakers, designers, suppliers and farmers, each working hard to make farming activity safer.
Do farmers often underestimate just how dangerous cows can be?
HSA data shows livestock were associated with close to 1/5th of all farm fatalities over the last ten years. Of this, cows accounted for 31% of fatalities with livestock.
This statistic, unfortunately, provides evidence that there is a lot of work still to be done to help farmers change work routines and farm practices to make working with cows safer.
When we advise farmers on the dangers associated with cows, they are all able to highlight the dangers which cows pose. The challenge is for farmers to do what they know they should do actively.
When working with cows, farmers must implement actions like staying cautious, culling aggressive cows in a timely manner, always having a barrier between them and the cow, always using a calving gate and seeking help.
TF: Are most farm accidents preventable?
FB: Yes, all injuries associated with farm activity have a root cause, meaning they are preventable.
When you break each task is down into its component parts, and a put a plan together with safety in mind, you will identify and control all safety hazards.
This may seem like a big laborious task, but in practice, in most situations, this is as simple as stepping back for a few seconds to think, check, plan and only then start to do.
TF: What are your ten top farm safety tips?
- Complete a Farm Safety Risk Assessment Document: Firstly, take time to update the document regularly and ensure that everybody who works on your farm reads and understands it.
- Identify risks: Take time to regularly walk around the farm to identify risks, note them on the risk assessment’s action list, and make arrangements to take action on them.
- Attend safety training: Attending training provides an opportunity to increase awareness and learn from other farmers. Also, it is important to provide opportunities for people who work directly for you also to attend training. Training has been shown to increase the adoption of positive health and safety practices.
- Tractors and machinery maintenance: It is important to allocate time each day and each week to carry out this work. Only carry out this work yourself if you have the correct tools and you are competent to do it safely.
- Operating tractors and machinery: Only allow competent persons to drive tractors.
- Animals are unpredictable: Handle them with caution and respect the dangers associated with them.
- Good animal handling facilities: Good facilities will help to provide more control of animals during routine tasks. Planned improvements each year will deliver good facilities over time. For more information, check out this video.
- Slurry gas can kill: Before mixing slurry, take time to ensure there are no people, animals or pets in the area, open all doors and stay clear of the agitation point and shed for at least 40 minutes after agitation commences. Ensure all slurry tanks and lagoons are covered or fenced off safely.
- Safe play area: Young children must always be accompanied while on the farm. Also, make a safe play area for children and be vigilant when children are visiting.
- Health: Prioritise sleep, diet and exercise. Also, we encourage farmers to get a health check regularly.
TF: What farm safety training can farmers avail of?
FB: Teagasc and private agricultural consultants provide ½ day training on the farm safety code of practice risk assessment document.
Knowledge of hazards on farms and options that farmers use to help eliminate or manage these hazards is very important.
Training helps to identify ways to manage safety on the farm, and it provides an opportunity to hear the opinions of other farmers.
Teagasc regularly organises events that have demonstrations on safe methods of managing animals, operating machinery and working with crops. I highly recommend attending these events. See more on the Teagasc Events.
TF: What final message would you like to convey to That’s Farming readers?
FB: Keep safety your top priority this autumn.
Currently, farms are very busy with farmers and contractors harvesting tillage crops, taking final crops of silage, getting the last of the slurry spread and preparing for the winter housing period.
Safety on your farm is up to you. I encourage you to do your best to carry out each task on your farm as safe as possible.
For additional information and advice on farm safety, contact your local Teagasc office or visit www.teagasc.ie
Further reading about farm accidents in Ireland
The Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee (FSPAC) has published its latest action plan for 2021-2024.
The FSPAC, an advisory committee to the HSA board, is tasked with improving occupational health and safety in the sector.
Over the past decade, more people died in agriculture compared with any other economic sector – read more.
Furthermore, the HSA has published its Review of Work-Related Deaths in Agriculture in Ireland 2011-2020.
Over the past ten years, more people died in agriculture compared with any other economic sector – read more.