Today, Monday July 4th, marks the start of the fourth annual Farm Safety Week, an initiative launched in 2013 aiming to cut the toll of accidents which continue to give agriculture the poorest record of any occupation in the Ireland and the UK.
From quad bike accidents to animal attacks, farming kills and injures more people than any other industry in Ireland and the UK. Farm Safety Week (4th – 8th July) offers five days of themed practical farm safety advice and guidance for farmers and urges them to consider ‘Who would fill your boots?’ in the event of a farm accident.
This year’s Farm Safety Week is being supported by a greater number of organisations than ever including the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Authority, Ireland, Health & Safety Executive, UK, and Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland. It aims to educate and inspire a drive to improve agriculture’s poor safety record.
According to IFA President Joe Healy, “Farming remains a labour-intensive and sometimes dangerous occupation. Each year, farm fatalities in Ireland reach double figures and more than 1,000 injuries occur on farms. Over the course of this week, we are working with our counterparts in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales on five days and five themes but one very clear question – Have you thought about “Who Would Fill Your Boots?” if you were to have a farm accident”
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said, “I’ve seen first-hand the devastation that follows farm accidents and fatalities. The impact on families and communities is unquantifiable. As Minister, it is my intention to be a vocal advocate for safety and vigilance in order to ensure our farms are the safest working environments possible. There are many risks in farming, this does not mean that it has to be a dangerous profession. There is more that can be done to limit the number of accidents occurring. We must all continue to work together to drive behavioural change so that safe working practices are followed at all times.”
Farm fatalities down
Last year in Ireland, fatalities in agriculture were down by 40%, with 18 deaths reported compared to 30 in 2014, four of which were child fatalities. Although the fall in figures was welcomed farming is still the most dangerous occupation and that needs to change.
“These are not just statistics,” explains Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with HSA and member of the Farm Safety Partnership Ireland, “Behind each story is a grieving family, a community in shock, and a farm that needs to continue being farmed no matter what has happened. This year, Farm Safety Week is focusing on the power of the positive. We know that we need to engage with farmers of all ages to make farms safer places to work and live. We’re encouraging everyone in the industry to become farm safety champions.
“On a farm, as with any business, the number one resource is the people. A farm accident – whether fatal or causing serious trauma – can have awful, potentially lifelong consequences for a business, not to mention family and sadly, deaths or injuries occurring on a farm are preventable more often than not. As someone who looks after Agriculture for HSE, I see the importance of farm safety first hand. Injuries on the farm are no joke, and they happen much more often than they should. We need to work together so that farm safety is acknowledged as important and change ensues.”
“It is human nature to think ‘it won’t happen to me,’ but unfortunately it can – especially if we continue on with this approach,” says Farm Safety Foundation’s Stephanie Berkeley.
“Taking preventative, proactive measures is one of the best things we can do for our farm and workers. Most preventative practices are common sense. Tragically, most accidents are caused by simple factors such as habit, haste, fatigue, and improperly maintained machinery. This week, we hope that by hearing from other farmers about their experiences, we can ask farmers to really think about ‘Who Would Fill Your Boots?’ if something were to happen to them at work, shed some light on the necessity of farm safety and highlight practical ways to make it happen on the farm.”
Monday’s Theme – Falls
Themed help and advice will be placed online each day of the fourth annual Farm Safety Week. The five daily themes are falls, machinery, livestock, transport, and children on farms. The Farm Safety Week campaign today focuses on falls, which caused of one-fifth of fatal accidents on Irish farms in 2015.
Even the most safety conscious farmers can experience the effects of a serious injury as we learn from Dermot Hogan, a young farmer from County Offaly*.
In a recent series of video clips entitled ‘What’s left behind’, developed by Embrace FARM (a support network in Ireland for those affected by fatal and serious accidents), Dermot’s tragic farm accident is described. Dermot was killed when he fell a relatively short distance through the roof of a shed he was painting and suffered serious head injuries.
The 45-year-old father-of-three was painting the shed at his farm when he fell through a perspex roof light and suffered fatal head injuries. His wife raised the alarm and contacted emergency services who rushed to the scene. Paramedics worked to save him but sadly he was later pronounced dead.
According to his brother Eugene, a respected journalist who was involved in developing the video clip to warn others said, “What happened to Dermot didn’t just take his life…it took away a bit of the rest of us.”
This case reinforces that fact that farm workers of any age run the risk of injury or death from falls.