MINISTER for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed, last week in Seanad Éireann, declared his intention ‘to be a vocal advocate for safety and vigilance in order to ensure our farms are the safest working environments possible.’
The Minister said that he had seen, first-hand, the devastation that follows farm accidents and fatalities: ‘The impact on families and communities is unquantifiable.’
He pointed out that his colleague, Minister of State Pat Breen, through his responsibility for the Health and Safety Authority, had primary responsibility for health and safety on farms, but reiterated that he was particularly supportive of the farm safety agenda and improving the safety record on Irish farms.
Farm safety is a critical issue facing farming today, especially at this very busy time of the years and Minister Creed reminded senators that: ‘Statistics show that accidents on farms cause more workplace deaths than all other occupations combined. In the period 2004 to 2013, there were 176 fatal farm accidents. This is a shocking statistic.
‘To date this year, there have been eight fatal farm accidents on Irish farms,’ the Minister continued. ‘These eight fatal farm accidents account for over forty percent of all fatal work accidents so far in 2016, while farming accounts for less than 6 percent of the workforce.’
He went on to tell members of the upper house that injuries and fatalities are caused in a number of ways, but the two highest areas of accidents relate to tractors & machinery and livestock. So far this year tractors and machinery account for 75% of all fatal farm accidents: ‘It is important that farmers maintain all their tractors and machinery in good working order. This is part of being a good farmer.’
Minister Creed warned: ‘Farmers need to be reminded that accidents with tractors and machinery are the cause of the greatest number of fatal farm accidents, and the pattern is being repeated again this year. Machinery and tractor maintenance should be seen as a routine part of farm work, and that it is an essential expenditure to ensure a safe and profitable farming enterprise.
‘Cattle can be unpredictable, particularly cows with newly- or recently- born calves. Although most animal incidents are not fatal, many men, women and children are needlessly injured every year due to a lack of safety awareness.’
He stated that the HSA has a dedicated section on farm safety for both primary and post primary schools on its website, including a section on Teacher Support and Resources for the Classroom.
‘Ultimately,’ the Minister concluded, ‘farmers must change their own behaviour in relation to their farming practices to ensure that they and all others remain safe on their own farm.’