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Alarm at Rise in Farm Accident Deaths

Twelve farm deaths have occurred in 2017 (provisional figure to 31st May), with 4 occurring during the month of May. Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist, Dr John McNamara expressed alarm at the rise in farm deaths and called on farmers nationally to give safety top priority to avoid further tragic occurrences, particularly over this bank holiday weekend.

The majority of the accidents (8) were associated with farm tractors and ATV’S.   Livestock accounted for the remaining four farm deaths. Ten of the farm accident victims were aged over 60 years with seven aged 70 years or over.

The current level of farm deaths is about twice the number for previous years, with 5 and 6 farm deaths occurring respectively in 2016 and 2015, during the first 5 months.  

The Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist advised that the Farm Safety Risk Assessment contains comprehensive lists of controls related to farm hazards. 

Regarding farm vehicles, he advised to make sure that tractors and machinery are properly maintained and particularly that brakes and the hand brake are in working order. Being struck or crushed by vehicles and machinery is now the most frequent cause of machinery accidents, so vigilance when operating machines is vital to prevent further deaths, he stated.

Regarding livestock, having safe facilities for treating livestock is crucial. Farmers should consider using a mobile sanctuary such as a tractor for protection when entering a field to herd livestock.

Regarding safety of older farmers, Dr McNamara pointed to USA research that indicates that farmers aged over 65 years have a 5 times higher fatality risk.  The key safety challenge with this age cohort, he stated, is to identify the particular dangers, including working with machinery, livestock and assessing heights, and to take steps to minimise the accident risk.  Discussing safety issues with family and friends is a good way to motivate adoption, he added.

Teagasc will be holding major farm health and safety exhibits at the following major Teagasc events this summer:

  • Sheep Open Day at Teagasc, Athenry, Co Galway on Wednesday 21st June.
  • Crops Cultivation Open Day at Teagasc, Oak Park, Co. Carlow on Wednesday 28th June
  • National Dairy Open Day at Teagasc Moorepark, Fermoy, Co Cork on Tuesday 4th

A national conference will also be held on ‘Managing Labour on Dairy Farms’ to assist farmers with making effective use of farm labour and work time.  This event will take place at Horse and Jockey, Co. Tipperary on Thursday 15th June. Dr McNamara commented that ‘effective work organisation is crucial to prevent farm accidents as it eliminates working long hours and stress which are factors in causing farm accidents.’ 

Further information on all Teagasc events is available from Teagasc offices, or at www.teagasc.ie