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Aim for zero farm accidents every day in 2021

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Aim for zero farm accidents every day in 2021: An accident causes tragedy and leads to tragedy, pain and suffering, and possibly lifelong disability, writes John McNamara, Teagasc health & safety specialist.

It is in everyone’s best interests to put time and effort into preventing accidents.

However, a recent Irish study showed that just 38 % agreed that farmers give safety higher priority than on time.

This indicates that planning work to prevent hurry has a considerable role to play in cutting farm accidents.

Additionally, implementing farm developments measures such as modernising and maintaining buildings and equipment can cut workload and hurry and limit the risk of accidents.

Trends in farm deaths in 2020

In 2020, 19 farm workplace-related deaths have occurred (provisional H.S.A data, to 30th December).

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Three of these deaths occurred to children and young persons aged 16 years or younger.  Ten deaths have occurred to farmers aged 65 years or older. Six deaths have occurred to persons in the 17-64 age cohort.

Twelve farm deaths were associated with farm vehicles or machinery, being struck, or crushed as the major cause.

A further 5 deaths were associated with livestock, including 2 bull attacks, and 1 associated with slurry and a further 1 is under investigation.

Trends since 2015

A drop of about 18% in farm workplace deaths has occurred over the last 3 years (years 2018-20) compared to the previous 3 years (years 2015-17).

Trends in farm workplace fatalities, show a consistent increase among 65-year-old and older persons since 2014.

In contrast, deaths among persons in the 17-64 years age category have declined over the same period.  This year has seen the highest number of childhood fatalities since 2015.

Trends in Fatal Workplace Accidents 
Year 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Agriculture  (incl. forestry) 19 22 25 16 19 19 (provisional to 31th Dec)

Source:  H.S.A. (Provisional data for 2020 to 10th December, 2020, with two further fatalities reported)

Managing farm health and safety

The key to managing farm health and safety is to give it your first priority when a risk is present.

Farms are very dynamic workplaces with a lot of movement of people, machinery, loads, and livestock. An accident is caused by the impact of energy to a person, such as a blow. It is vital to be alert for situations where a person could be impacted, causing an accident.

Put physical controls in place such as covering power drive shafts or fencing or covering slurry tanks as these eliminate or reduce dangers and give on-going protection.

Human behaviour is involved in most accidents (90% plus) so it is vital to consider the way you carry our tasks at all times.

Complete your Risk Assessment to prevent farm accidents in 2021

The Farm Safety Risk Assessment Document provides a comprehensive list of both physical controls and behaviours to consider for implementation on farms.

Complete or review your Risk Assessment document annually. January is an opportune time to complete this task in advance of the busy spring season.  Review your Risk Assessment document on a regular basis throughout the year.

It is a legal requirement to complete a Risk Assessment Document (three or fewer workers) or a Safety Statement (four or more employees).

Minister Martin Haydon

Meanwhile, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with Special Responsibility for Farm Safety, Martin Heydon T.D., has said that 2021 “needs to be the year when farmers put their own safety first”.

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