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Ireland unites in calls for increased farm safety

29 June 2020

MINISTERS FROM Northern Ireland and the Republic come together to call for increased awareness of farm safety.

With the ongoing high rate of fatal farm accidents in 2020, Minster Creed, Minister Poots, Minister Dodds and Minister Humphreys have urged all farmers across the island of Ireland, and all of those involved in agriculture, to play their part and reduce the rate of farm incidents.

In a joint appeal the Ministers said: “We all have a long association with farming and have all seen first-hand the devastation that follows farm incidents and fatalities. 

“It is very concerning to see a surge in the number of fatal farm incidents on our farms. This year, there have been 15 fatal incidents on farms on the island of Ireland, with 12 fatal incidents in the South and 3 fatal incidents in Northern Ireland. The majority of these accidents have occurred during the Covid-19 restrictions and in particular it is very sad to see the number of children and older people that have died on our farms in recent weeks”

Three children and eight people over 65 have died this year. Thirteen have occurred during the Covid-19 restrictions. The Ministers continued: “There has been a remarkable level of public awareness across both jurisdictions of the need to flatten the Covid curve. Faced with an overwhelming public health imperative, practices such as physical distancing, coughing etiquette and hand sanitising have become a cultural norm.

“We need a similar and immediate effort if we are to make a real impact on the prevalence of farm incidents. Farm safety has to be built into our DNA. We have demonstrated with our collective response to Covid that this can be done. 

“Research shows that farmers and contractors are generally aware of the risks, but often don’t adhere to the safety rules or take specific steps to ensure that the work they are engaged in can be done safely.  Farm safety cannot be left to someone else.  It has to be lived by the farmer, by all of us, and built into the routine. We are appealing to farmers and those working on farms to take time to think about farm safety every morning, before you go out into the yard. You should always plan your work, take a moment to STOP and THINK:

  • How am I going to do this job safely?
  • Do I have everything I need?
  • Are there other people or hazards (machinery, obstructions, livestock) in the area I’m working in?

“This approach does not cost anything.  It only takes a few moments. It does, however, require conscious reflection on farm safety every single day, and before every single job is tackled.

“There are additional risks just now with farmers and contractors busy working with animals, making silage and spreading fertiliser and slurry.  Also many farms will have children at home from school so everyone needs to be extra vigilant.

“Following on from the good weather that we enjoyed during May, it is important that everyone is aware of the increased risk when it comes to working with slurry. The good weather has the potential to cause greater level of gasses to be released from the slurry during agitation than what may usually be experienced. We remind all farmers and contractors that just one lungful of slurry gas can kill. So take great care when working with slurry and always follow the published advice.”

Farming is a vital part of the structure and economy across the Island. Farmers continue to work hard and long hours on a daily basis to produce essential foodstuffs. While farms are high-risk workplaces, farming does not have to be dangerous. Simple basic precautions can reduce the risks and prevent future accidents. This is particularly important at present during the Covid-19 restrictions as more people are at home and on the farm including young children and older members of families.

Along with our Farm Safety Partnerships, the four Ministers have come together to outline their concern and collectively are calling on all to work together with the single goal of preventing accidents and therefore saving lives.