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Safety on Farms is Key

11 February 2020
Type Media Article

By Glen Corbett, B&T Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare

Background:

Farm Safety is a constant issue and concern on Irish farms and because of this, there needs to be constant awareness amongst the farming community of how we can make our farms safer places to live and work. As the average age of an Irish farmer rises to over 60 years of age, these farmers need to adapt to stay safer as two thirds of the deaths on Irish farms were in the over 60 age group in 2019 (13 out of 18). The other most vulnerable age group is those under 16 years of age. The common reasons for deaths and accidents on farms don’t change much from year to year, they are:

  • Machinery (Tractors, other vehicles)
  • Livestock
  • Falls from Height
  • Working with slurry

Farm Safety Awareness Event – Mountbellew Agricultural College, Co. Galway (H53WE00):

Teagasc are holding a day long Safety Awareness Event at Mountbellew Agricultural College, Co. Galway (H53WE00) on Friday 14th February. The day will be divided into a session in the morning for local secondary schools (10.00am to 1.00pm). The afternoon session will be dedicated to farm families (2.00pm – 5.00pm).

National School children in the afternoon are invited and can go to a special event with Farm Safety specialist Alma Jordan (Founder of Agrikids). This is an indoor event with presentations and workshops for the younger kids. At the same time there will be demonstrations in the College farmyard carried out by relevant experts such as the HSA, An Garda Síochána, Teagasc, Mountbellew College Staff and FRS.

We will also have in attendance farm accident survivor, Peter Gohery from Eyrecourt, Co. Galway. In October 2009, Peter lost a limb while doing maintenance work on his Diet Feeder. He was standing over an unguarded PTO Shaft when part of his waterproof leggings got wrapped up in the mechanism and he now has a prosthetic leg.

The Stands in the Farmyard are as follows:

  • Livestock/Machinery/Slurry, with Specialists and farm accident survivor Peter Gohery.
  • Trailer towing and licensing – An Garda Síochána
  • Demonstration on safe Quad and Chainsaw use – Pat Reilly, FRS

Spring Farm Activities:

At this time of year farms are starting to get busy again for the year ahead. So what are the timely activities that we need to watch out for, let’s take Spring Calving cows and slurry spreading?

The bonding process is how a cow identifies her new calf and commits to caring for and protecting it. Changes in Progesterone and Oestrogen levels initiate the birth process, but rising Oxytocin levels released during calving trigger maternal behaviour. This is a natural thing and we need that to happen but farmers need to be extra careful at this stage in case that cow with its heightened hormones, sees the farmer near their calf as a threat and reacts against them. So beware, keep your distance and don’t take any chances. Use proper facilities for housing and handling the cow after calving.

As the long winter nears an end and the slurry tanks are starting to fill up, the job of applying this slurry needs to be taken care of. Potentially, the most dangerous part of this process is when agitating. When a tank has been left for a while with no stock in the shed, a skin/crust forms over the top of the slurry like a blanket. Under this crust, slurry gas develops as it is trapped there. Slurry gas is a mixture of gases including Methane, Carbon Dioxide, Ammonia and Hydrogen Sulphide, all produced during the decomposition process of slurry. Not a nice mix and this mix is odourless and invisible. When agitation happens it breaks up the crust, releasing this mix and it can overcome and kill beast and human alike. So what do you need to do, firstly, empty shed of stock before agitating. Only use external agitating points and agitate if possible when there is air movement like a breeze/wind and withdraw from site and stand back from Agitator during the process and give gas a chance to disperse.

Overview:

We need to continue to get a message of farm safety awareness across. Are all safety measures/facilities in place on farms that should be and are practices carried out using the safest methods possible? Is there some aspect of safety that a TAMS grant would help provide perhaps, eg, replacement slats, external agitation points.

Are you taking unnecessary risks?  From personal experience, when I had a very near miss when using a chainsaw during the summer of 2019, I’m glad to get a qualified person (Patrick Reilly, FRS) to run over the aspects of safe chainsaw use at the Mountbellew event. Hopefully people that visit the event on the day can take away something that will prevent accidents from happening in future and help pass on safe methods of work to the next generation of farmers.