Minister says number of farm accidents frightening

 

While only one person has died in an Irish farm accident so far this year, the farm continues to be the most dangerous workplace in the State taking the lives of 43 children in the past 10 years.

The Minister of State for Labour Affairs, Mr Frank Fahey, told the launch of Farm Safety Week, that in the four-year period, 1999-2002, 20 children died on Irish farms.

Describing these statistics as "frightening", the Minister also said last year 19 people, including two children died on farms.

In a study of the accident trends over the period, the farm was an even more deadly environment than building sites. In the years 2001-2002 construction had 37 deaths compared to agriculture's 33.

Mr Fahey said it was the only sector where the number of workers was rapidly declining with a consequent drop in the injury and illness rates.

"In 1999 the total number of people who either had workplace injury or work-related illness was estimated at 9,600 whereas the number for 2002 was reduced to 8,400," he said.

However, when the decrease of numbers in employment is taken into account it showed that 7.1 in every 100 workers were affected in 1999 and 7.3 in every 100 workers were affected in 2002," he said. The figures for fatalities per 100,000 workers in the period under review showed that in agriculture in 1999 the rate was 11.8 compared to 11.3 in the construction sector.

In the year 2000, the agriculture figure was 15.3 and in construction, 9.0; 2001 it was 16.7 compared to 9.4 in construction and in 2002, 12.2 in agriculture and 10.6 in construction.

The chief executive of the Health and Safety Authority , Mr Tom Beegan, said that in the four years under study, over half of those who had died were over 60 years of age. He said this was more than twice the rate of mortality in the construction sector.

Mr Beegan said this could be because so many farmers and their partners were now working off farm and leaving farm work to elderly parents or relatives on farms.

However, he said, no research had been carried out into this issue and he could not be sure that this was the case.

It also emerged at the press conference that farmers will not lose part of their EU Single Payments for failing to comply with Health and Safety Regulations when the payments are made next January.

However, the chairman of the Farm Safety Partnership, Mr Frank Laffey, said he believed in the future farmers would be forced to comply with the safety regulations or lose a portion of their farm payment.

Farm Safety Week begins on Monday next with a series of television advertisements and a radio campaign.

There will also be a farm safety competition aimed at primary school pupils of all ages and the Irish Farmers' Association has agreed to text its members promoting and highlighting safety on farms.

The authority has also decided to increase its level of farm inspections around the country.