IN a major show of industry solidarity, designed to up the game for everyone around farm safety, the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) will partner nationally with the FBD Champions for Change programme.
The all-encompassing co-operative sector initiative was launched in Portlaoise by the board of ICOS, together with FBD chairman, Michael Berkery. All ICOS member dairy co-operatives nationwide, including the West Cork co-ops, will engage proactively with their milk producers to highlight the risks of farm accidents and deaths, promoting key safety messages.
ICOS dairy co-operatives including the major dairy processors will be circulating over 20,000 FBD Champions for Change information packs to dairy farmers as well as erecting safety signs in over 250 co-operative stores nationwide.
Figures from the Health and Safety Authority show that (across all industry sectors) 55 people were killed in work-related accidents in 2014, the highest rate of fatalities since 2008. Fatalities in the agriculture sector increased by 87% in 2014, with 30 people (including 5 children) killed compared to 16 in 2013.
For the fifth year running, the agriculture sector recorded the highest number of fatalities, representing over half of all work related deaths in 2014. More than 2,500 serious accidents occur on Irish farms each year.
ICOS represents co-operatives and organisations in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts – whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of €14 billion, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas.
Speaking at the launch, ICOS president Martin Keane welcomed the commitment of its members and the initiative of FBD in developing the Champions for Change programme.
‘Our co-operative members are keen to promote this exceptionally important awareness programme. It’s incumbent on everyone in the Irish agriculture sector to establish a permanent culture of health, safety and welfare at work so that we can reduce and eliminate the dreadful tragedy of farm related fatalities and injuries.
‘We are entering a time of great opportunity for our industry where dairy production will grow unfettered by the milk quota system which will be abolished next month. While this is a positive development, it also places increased pressure on farm enterprises and it would be deeply unfortunate if this growth opportunity would be marred by unfortunate and often preventable accidents and incidents on a recurring basis.
‘Any one death, or one accident, is one too many. In launching this initiative with FBD, we particularly remember victims of fatal accidents and anyone who has been injured or bereaved through accidents at work. We urge all farming families and everyone throughout the agri-food sector to take heed of the safety messages in the FBD Champions for Change programme and to always take measures to ensure that they will come home to their loved ones alive and uninjured’.
Michael Berkery, chairman of FBD, said: ‘The increase in farm-related fatalities from 16 in 2013 to 30 in 2014 is deeply-concerning and is a tragedy for each of the families and communities involved. Our intention when devising the Champions for Change campaign was to help bring greater awareness of the risks associated with farming and the need for all of us to consider a change in how we approach tasks on the farm.
‘We therefore hope that the material contained in our farm safety packs and on signage will serve as reminders of the risks involved in everyday tasks and ultimately prompt a change in how safety is managed on the farm,’ added Mr Berkery. ‘FBD is committed to maintaining this increased focus on safety in the future and hopes to see a reversal in the level of accidents and fatalities in 2015 and beyond.’
FBD has funded the preparation of farm safety packs, including safety booklets, HSA Survivor Stories DVD and a Safe Quad Skills and Operation DVD, aimed at reminding farmers, and particularly dairy farmers, of the dangers involved in their daily activities. It encourages them to take the steps necessary to ensure that they or their loved ones don’t join the scary statistics for accidents, injuries and deaths.