Coveney says this will be a watershed year for farm safety

Thirty people killed in farm accidents last year and three have already died this year

 Alf McGlew and Andrew Purcell with Minister of State Ged Nash and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, participants in a Teagasc farm safety walk on their farm at Grangebellew, Co Louth. Photograph: Finbarr O’Rourke

Alf McGlew and Andrew Purcell with Minister of State Ged Nash and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, participants in a Teagasc farm safety walk on their farm at Grangebellew, Co Louth. Photograph: Finbarr O’Rourke

 

The Minister for Agriculture has vowed that this year will mark a turning point for farm safety after the loss of 30 lives in farm deaths last year.

Simon Coveney said it was “totally unacceptable” that 60 per cent of workplace fatalities happened on farms in 2014, when agriculture employed just 6 per cent of the workforce. “We are determined that this year will be the watershed year . . . for change in terms of attitudes towards farm safety.

“I know what it’s like to lose a father, the head of the family, to an accident. It’s awful in terms of what the family has to go through after that, in terms of picking up the pieces, finding a way forward, trying to run a business in the absence of the business person.”

Mr Coveney’s father Hugh, also a Fine Gael politician, died in a fall from a cliff in 1998.

Mr Coveney was speaking as he launched Farm Safety Fortnight on the farm of Andrew Purcell and Alf McGlew in Grangebellew, Co Louth. Mr Purcell and Mr McGlew have pooled resources in a farm partnership which involves a 300- cow dairy herd.

Sixty farmers attended a safety walk organised by Teagasc and the Health and Safety Authority on the farm. Mr Purcell said too many lives had been lost on farms last year. “There are far too many injuries as well. We hear all about the deaths on farms but there are hundreds of thousands of injuries.”

Mr McGlew said both farmers were very safety conscious as they had five children between them. “They’ll be here at the weekends feeding calves, milking cows and we’re always keeping an eye on them, but we don’t want to keep them out of farming either. We want to keep them involved.”

Minister of State for business and employment Ged Nash also attended the walk and said there were far too many risks associated with running a farm.

“Farm fatalities rips families apart,” he added. “They rip communities apart and we’ve had enough of it.”

The Health and Safety Authority will carry out 500 farm visits in the coming two weeks, looking at areas such as tractor maintenance and animal handling facilities.

Three people have died in farm accidents this year. In January, a Kerry farmer (82) died after his tractor rolled back and pinned him under the rear wheel. In the same week, a farmer (61) from Kilkenny died after a tractor rolled down a bank and crushed him. In February, a man (42) died in an accident in his milking parlour in Wexford.