Farms remain most dangerous workplace despite decrease in deaths


THERE WAS a significant reduction in work-related deaths on farms last year with 11 deaths recorded, almost half the 2008 total of 21.

The agriculture sector was again the most dangerous workplace in the economy, despite the overall drop in workplace deaths to 43 in 2009, compared with 57 the previous year.

Health and Safety Authority (HSA) statistics gave a county breakdown of farm deaths, which showed Louth had three deaths and Monaghan two. There was one fatality each in Clare, Cork, Longford, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow.

The authority welcomed the decrease but cautioned that similar reductions had occurred previously only to be followed by a reversal the following year.

“The authority hopes that this year’s improvements will be the beginning of a sustained downward trend of fatal and serious accidents in a sector that has had the worst record of any for the last number of years,” the HSA said.

Pat Griffin, senior inspector with the authority, said that the figures were a major improvement but it was still 11 deaths too many and the sector should strive for zero fatal accidents.

“We have to acknowledge that there have been improvements,” he said. “I think that most people in the sector are now more aware of farm safety issues, have recognised the sector’s poor safety record and are working to make changes to achieve improvements.”

These improvements could be achieved by focusing on particular age groups and issues. Examples of these would be the reduction in child deaths, elderly deaths and deaths from livestock.

HSA statistics show that 37 per cent of farm deaths from 1999- 2008 involved workers over 65 years while 18 per cent of fatal accidents involved children.

The major causes of childhood fatal accidents were tractors and machinery (58 per cent) and drowning (21 per cent).

Tractors and machinery account for the highest proportion of fatalities, with livestock next. Of primary concern are bulls and cows; the risks with these animals include crushing, goring or attack when animals are being moved, separated or released. Other major causes of farm deaths were falls and collapsing buildings.