The number of farm deaths reported in the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) report that reviews the work-related fatalities in agriculture in Ireland from 2011 to 2020 tells of a very serious reality on Irish farms.
The report states that 208 people lost their lives as a result of a farm accident. However, in one way, numbers are just numbers.
We need to think about who and what’s behind the numbers, especially for those left behind.
Think about the 208 farm families left on Irish farms that have lost a loved one due to an accident on the farm.
Over 45% of these farm deaths were caused by moving tractors, tractors with loaders, or quad bikes that were driven or parked incorrectly. That’s almost 100 farmers who were working away as normal as part of their everyday workload who didn’t sit down again at the kitchen table.
For one reason or another, the tractor rolled, the loader failed or what was on the loader fell off, or the quad bike crashed with devastating results.
The use of a helmet on quad bikes and safety training for driving quad bikes will be regulated from November 2023. We can’t wait for this date. We need to start implementing this rule now.
As farm owners, you have control over this and need to get it as part of the everyday role on-farm – if farmers are on quads, a helmet is obligatory.
July not good
July is a particularly bad month for farm deaths, with over 16% of farm deaths happening in the month of July. Often it can be a very busy month in the fields.
There can frequently be a lot more people around the farm, as families are on holidays or kids are not in school. All pose additional dangers to an already dangerous workplace.
Albert Evans has farmed alongside his wife Anne for the past 32 years near Arklow, Co Wicklow. He spoke about the impact that his farm accident had on his family and those around him.
“It was coming into the calving season, I had been up late and was tired. Looking back on it now, I realise there was not enough preparation done beforehand for this busy time on-farm.
“When I went into the calf pen shed, I saw some timber sticking out, so I picked up the chainsaw without thinking to trim the gate and was nearly finished when I knew something was wrong.
“There were bits of wellies flying everywhere and when I looked down at my foot, I didn’t actually feel it but I knew I had done a lot of damage. I had to go to hospital and have two operations. Only for Anne and the goodwill of our neighbours I was in a lot of trouble, as I was out of action for a couple of months.”
Anne said: “The impact on the family was huge. We had to urgently look for help as there was so much to do. I would love if we could talk more about accidents and create a change in terms of farm safety culture. We learnt a serious lesson – use the quiet times on the farm to prepare and ensure the farm is a safe place to work.”
Albert continued: “Think before you do anything. It is very important to train in farm safety, and there are many courses to avail of nowadays. Don’t wait to make change – do it now.”