Safety body defends new rules banning children in tractor cabs

HSA says 27 people have died in farm accidents this year

The Health and Safety Authority has defended its plan to prosecute farmers who carry a child under seven in the cab of a tractor or agricultural vehicle

The Health and Safety Authority has defended its plan to prosecute farmers who carry a child under seven in the cab of a tractor or agricultural vehicle

 

The Health and Safety Authority has criticised the negative response from the farming community to its plan to prosecute farmers who carry a child under seven in the cab of a tractor or agricultural vehicle.

The new rules, which come into effect in January, also involve the prosecution of farmers who fail to have all access points to a slurry pit covered.

However, Farm Contractors Ireland has described the regulations as “a disaster”, saying children were much safer in the cab of a tractor than in the farmyard.

The Irish Farmers’ Association also criticised the swift way the rules were announced and said threatening prosecution would not reduce farm accidents or fatalities.

Farmers’ Journal editor Justin McCarthy also said the ban on carrying children aged seven or under in the cab of the tractor needed broader debate. “Not everyone would agree that it is the right approach,” he said.

The Health and Safety Authority’s senior inspector, Pat Griffin, said the criticism from key figures in the farming community was very disappointing.

Unacceptable number

Twenty-seven people have died in farm accidents this year, compared with a yearly average of 18.

“Nineteen children have been killed on farms between 2003 and 2014,” Mr Griffin said. “There have been five deaths of children under 17 this year and three of them were under seven.”

He said the authority had thought long and hard about introducing the ban on carrying young children in tractor cabs and farmers had to realise it was not acceptable. “Once a young child under seven is given his or her first spin in a tractor or other farm machinery cab, it will encourage that child to stray or escape to the yard to seek another spin, placing them at greater risk of being seriously injured or killed,” he said.

‘Safer places’

Mr Griffin said farmers were presenting it as an “either or” situation where children were either wandering around the farm yard or in the tractor cab.

“Clearly the real argument is the cost of childcare, which cannot be accepted as a reason for placing children under seven years at such risk.”

He said farm safety inspectors had seen the tragic results of allowing children in the farmyard on too many occasions.

“Many children have been killed over the years by falling from tractor cabs, falling out of the back window of tractors, by being run over when they run to get on to the tractor, falling off loads and falling from loader buckets.”

He was speaking before a farm safety seminar in Tullamore organised by the National Irish Safety Organisation.

Its president, Pauric Corrigan, also expressed disappointment at the comments of Farm Contractors Ireland and said the organisation fully supported the HSA’s attempts to prevent these accidents.

“We again call on farmers to take responsibility and exercise good safety prevention measures,” he said.