Farm safety was the topic under discussion at a recent public meeting hosted by Templemore-Thurles Fine Gael on Monday night last in the Anner Hotel.
District chairperson Garret Kelleher opened the meeting by drawing people’s attention to the fact that deaths on our farms continually out-number deaths which occur in any other sector of the work force and accounted for 47% of work place deaths in 2016 (21 of 45), despite the fact that less than 6% of the Irish work force are employed in agriculture.
John Kennedy, Agriculture & Forestry Inspector with the Health & Safety Authority, gave the meeting a comprehensive presentation on the background and causes of deaths in accidents on Irish farms and stressed the importance of having all farm equipment checked and serviced regularly. He emphasised the particular need for a farm’s ‘second tractor’ or lesser-used tractor to be well maintained and serviced to ensure it continues to be fit for purpose.
Kennedy highlighted the fact that children and older people consistently account for a disproportionately high number of the deaths which occur on Irish farms. He told of how 23 children died as a result of farm accidents in the ten year period from 2007-2016 (12% of overall number of 197) and of how 66 farmers over 65 years of age died in the same period (34% of overall). He referred to the alarming statistic that 10 out of 13 deaths* on Irish farms in 2017 have been to male farmers over 65 years of age. Kennedy concluded his address by stressing the need for what he described as the “it will never happen on my farm” culture to change and pleading with people to give farm safety the priority it deserves to reduce the numbers of tragedies on our farms.
Brian Rohan of Embrace FARM told his own moving and emotive personal story of how his father Liam lost his life as a result of a farm accident which occurred in 2012, less than a week after the birth of his (Liam’s) first grandchild and how such a happy family event was overshadowed by the horrific tragedy. He emphasised the importance of families being prepared for the unexpected and, in particular, of the importance of having wills made and taking out life insurance cover.
Recently re-appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed T.D. spoke of how farming is a profession often practised in isolation and of the obvious danger that exists when accidents occur without the support offered by co-workers or witnesses. He also referred to the fact that the larger and more powerful modern tractors and farm machinery tend to be far more dangerous than the vehicles and equipment used on our farms in the past.
Tipperary Coroner, Joe Kelly spoke of the importance of risk analysis in the investigation of accidents. He re-iterated the fact that farm tragedies continue to occur and of the need to learn from the mistakes of the past to change the culture and attitudes that exist towards safety on our farms.
Following the contributions of the guest speakers, there was a lively inter-action between the audience and the speakers on a wide variety of topics such as farmers taking on greater work-loads than in the past, the increased number of distractions in the work place, the lack of mandatory safety training requirements and the importance of temporary farm workers being given greater assistance to find employment during quieter times of the year.
*Note: Since the meeting, two more people have lost their lives on Irish farms bringing the number of fatalities to 15 in 2017 to date.