Friday the worst day for farm deaths

Farm fatality pattern mirrors road crashes

Friday is the day a fatal farm accident is most likely to happen while Wednesday is the safest, according to new research presented at a Teagasc conference on farming with a disability yesterday


David Meredith of Teagasc's rural economy research centre said his research had found that Wednesday was the day with the lowest number of recorded deaths.

“And it builds from there up to the weekend so by Friday you’re at the most dangerous day of the week. Saturday is equally dangerous and then it begins to tail off.”



Mr Meredith said this pattern was “very similar” to the profile of road crashes, and asked if there was another factor at play.

“And even though the farming day tends to start very early, there are very few fatalities early on. It’s only really from 9am onwards that we begin to see fatalities. And then we see a spike [in deaths] from about 11 o’clock.”

He asked if this could be explained by the fact that farmers did their set chores early in the day. After the routine tasks were done, they tackled other jobs and perhaps this was why more deaths occurred in the mid to late morning.

“What’s also interesting is that very few accidents actually occur outside the time period of 9am to 6pm. We know that the working day is much wider than this.”

There have been 21 farm deaths this year, compared with 16 for all of last year.

Mr Meredith studied the circumstances surrounding nearly 400 farm deaths over the past 20 years and found that on average 18.7 people a year died in farm accidents. Tractors and machinery caused the most deaths.

A fall in the number of farm deaths was recorded during the boom years, and he said this could be explained by the movement of huge numbers of people from farming to construction.

“There were less people actually on farms to die, so we have this downward decline. And then the recession kicks in and there are people back on the farms. That’s a possibility ... we haven’t tested that but it seems somewhat plausible.”

Behaviour on farms


Jim Kinsella

of UCD’s school of agriculture pointed to the failure to change people’s behaviour on farms despite numerous initiatives and the efforts of agencies such as Teagasc. “Everything we are doing seems to be not working. The changes of the past 20 years really aren’t changing behaviour on farms.”

Pat Flynn adds:

A farmer in his late 50s was found dead beside his tractor in Ballyea, Co Clare, on Wednesday night. It is understood Gerry O’Connell had been moving cattle from a shed into a trailer, close to his home, when he was crushed by a tractor.

This was the second farm fatality in Co Clare in a fortnight. On August 20th, TJ McDonagh (38), an agricultural contractor from Liscannor, died when a tyre exploded as he was fitting it to a vehicle.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times