Warning farm deaths may increase with removal of milk quotas

Number of deaths on farms almost doubled last year compared with 2013

Some 30 people died in farm accidents in 2014, the highest number since 1991. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Some 30 people died in farm accidents in 2014, the highest number since 1991. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times


Farm safety campaigner Brian Rohan has warned last year’s high number of farm deaths could be exceeded this year because of the removal of the milk quota system.

Some 30 people died in farm accidents in 2014, the highest number since 1991, but Mr Rohan said there was a danger those figures could continue to climb as dairy farmers expanded their enterprises.

More than half of dairy farmers are expected to grow their businesses when the milk quota system is abolished at the end of March.

“Farms are busy now but they are going to get busier,” said Mr Rohan. “Their work load is going to get bigger because more hay or silage has to be made for more animals and maybe the money isn’t in it to take on someone full-time to help.

“I think there could be an opening there for a type of a Job Bridge scheme where they could get half the dole and the farmer pay the rest. It would make a farmer’s life an awful lot simpler and cut out the isolation where you are trying to work the farm on your own.”

Mr Rohan set up the Embrace Farm support group after his father, Liam, was killed in a machinery-related accident on the family farm in Shanahoe, Co Laois.

Last year’s catalogue of deaths ranged from a one-year-old who was struck by a tractor in Cork to a 84-year-old who was attacked by a cow in Donegal.

The last death happened on New Year’s Eve when a father-of-two was pinned between a bale lifter and a wall while he was feeding cattle on his farm near Mallow, Co Cork.

A farmer from Four Roads, Co Roscommon was buried the day before Christmas Eve after he died from injuries caused by livestock.

Mr Rohan said the increase in farm deaths could be linked to the fact that many farmers have taken off-farm jobs to supplement the farm income and are working on the farm late in the evening.

“Maybe they are tired and there’s a lack of concentration,” he said. “Farmers have to be constantly reminded of safety because you have it in your head to do something and then you get busy at something else and you might end up rushing and do something dangerous.”

In a stepping up of its powers, the Health and Safety Authority has threatened farmers with immediate prosecution if they are found carrying an under-seven-year-old child in the cab of a tractor or if they have not fenced off access to an open slurry tank.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has urged farmers to use the new Farm Safety Scheme to make their workplaces safer. The scheme, which pays 40 per cent of the cost of certain works, will close for applications on Friday, January 9th.

Mr Rohan said the next version of the scheme should include grant aid to make machinery safer as it was a leading cause of accidents.

“You have farmers with old machinery where maybe the hydraulics are failing or the handbrake is gone or whatever, and they say ‘it’s grand’ but that could be the worst thing ever.”

He said there should also be grant aid to encourage farmers to provide a safe play area for small children which would keep them from wandering in the farm yard when their parents were doing farm work.

There will be a focus on farm safety at the BT Young Science and Technology Exhibition which opens at the RDS this week. ABP Food Group has become a partner of the exhibition to raise awareness of farm safety with secondary school children.