Farming most hazardous job in Ireland, conference hears

Of the 21 fatalities so far in 2017, 12 were of farmers aged over 65

Minister of State for Trade and Employment, Pat Breen said that while progress was being made and while information and training were available to farmers, there was a need to change the mindset and culture. Photograph:  Arthur Ellis

Minister of State for Trade and Employment, Pat Breen said that while progress was being made and while information and training were available to farmers, there was a need to change the mindset and culture. Photograph: Arthur Ellis

 

The majority of agricultural deaths recorded so far this year have been among farmers over 65, with increased workloads and more pressure at the root of many fatalities, a safety conference has been told

Farming remains the most hazardous occupation in Ireland, consistently showing the highest number of fatalities in comparison with other sectors, the conference, co-hosted by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and Teagasc, in Ennis heard on Friday.

Of the 21 fatalities recorded since the beginning of the year 12 were of farmers aged over 65.

“There has been a shift in the last number of years towards fatalities amongst older people in agriculture and that is very concerning,” the chairman of the Farm Safety Partnership, Prof Jim Phelan, said.

Targeted with safety messages

He added that vulnerable groups would have to be targeted with safety messages and supports and accepted that while it would “take significant investment in terms of time and money” it would have to be addressed if lives were to be saved.

The farm safety and health specialist with Teagasc, Dr John McNamara, said working in a hurry was a major factor in farm accidents, particularly in the spring when the workload increases dramatically.

“Farmers are under increased work pressure, as the dairy sector has expanded due to milk quota abolition, while dry-stock farmers are availing of off-farm employment with the upturn in the economy,” he said.

Cut workload

The conference was told that Teagasc advisers are paying particular attention to the organisation of work and are assisting farmers to cut workload through farm modification and change in practices.

“We have to look at the contributing factors that cause farm accidents and come up with solutions that will get buy-in from farmers,” Dr McNamara said.

Making the opening address, the Minister of State for Trade and Employment, Pat Breen said that while progress was being made and while information and training were available to farmers, there was a need to change the mindset and culture and ensure that safety was a priority for farmers and their families.

He repeated a call for farmers to stay safe: “Think about your actions, consider your work practices. The toll on the community and on farming families is simply too high.”