The most dangerous job in Ireland
Three members of the Spence family died in a farming accident last weekend. Drowning, poisoning and electrocution are just some of the risks of the job
THE DEATHS OF three members of the Spence family in a farm accident in Co Down last Saturday has provided a stark reminder of just how dangerous farming is. In the past six years, 102 people have been killed in farm-related accidents in this State; the equivalent of one death every three weeks. It’s difficult to think of any other job that presents such an array of risks, including gas poisoning, electrocution, drowning, being crushed by machinery and being attacked by animals.
Farming used to vie with construction in the league of the State’s most dangerous occupations, according to Health and Safety Authority inspector Tommy O’Sullivan. “But construction got quieter and unfortunately agriculture is our number one.”
Last year 22 people died in farm-related accidents, and 14 deaths have been recorded in the State so far this year. Of those, eight involved machinery and three were caused by livestock.
One involved a slurry tank and the remaining two were as a result of being trapped or crushed. O’Sullivan says many accidents involve spur-of-the-moment actions with disastrous consequences. Instinctively reaching into a machine to grab something or standing between a cow and her newborn calf might not even register if luck is on the side of the farmer. “The difference between a fatal accident and a minor accident can be half a second or half an inch,” O’Sullivan adds.
Sean Malone, a Wicklow farmer, blames a spur-of-the-moment action for his accident. He was crushed by a big bale when he tried to move a sheep and lamb out of the way as the bale fell. “Over not spending 30 seconds to stop and think, I had lost 20 years, probably the best years of my life,” he reflects in a video of survivors’ stories made by the Health and Safety Authority.
The authority recently noted an increase in the number of accidents involving tree-felling. “That’s a trend we are concerned about. It could be related to the fact that people are trying to find fuel for themselves because of rising fuel costs,” said O’Sullivan.
EOIN GOLDRICK: ‘THE TEARS WERE COMING OUT OF MY EYES’
THE NEWS THAT Noel, Graham and Nevin Spence died after being overcome by slurry fumes brought uncomfortable memories flooding back to Eoin Goldrick this week.
About five years ago the man from Killimor, Co Galway, was agitating slurry when he was overcome by fumes. “I was the lucky one,” he says repeatedly.