Very few of us have any right to throw the first stone when it comes to farm safety. At some point we have all had that sick feeling in the pit of the stomach or the cold shiver that instantly engulfs the body when we realise how close we were to something going wrong.
Unfortunately, I have had first-hand experience of being involved in a serious farm accident. In my teenage years, I came within six inches of taking my younger sister’s life, having run over her with the front wheel of a tractor.
Over 20 years on, I can still recall the incident as if it happened yesterday. The feeling of getting down from a tractor not knowing the fate of a five-year-old girl lying between the front and back wheel is something I will never forget.
Thankfully, my sister escaped with minor injuries, all of which she recovered from fully. The outcome could have been so very different. Luck was actually on our side – I had taken the small two-wheel-drive tractor which had a large weight on the lift arms, significantly reducing the weight on the front axle. I often think of the outcome had I taken a larger tractor or had I not stopped in time. I just can’t begin to comprehend how it must be for a family where the outcome of an accident was tragic.
A combination of working with live animals and large machinery means that farming will always be a dangerous profession. However, there are steps/processes that can be taken to reduce the risk. Simply taking time out to assess work practices and the working environment will help. What one measure will you take to improve safety? It can be as simple as replacing a guard on a PTO shaft or fixing a light switch in a shed.
The dangers on-farm are elevated further due to the recreational nature of the business. The lines between work and pleasure on most farms are undefined. Children quickly develop a passion for livestock and/or machinery. Ensuring this passion grows alongside a sense of respect for the dangers associated with farming is one area that is not being adequately addressed. Our education system has an important role to play in this regard.
We welcome the move by the IFA and the HSA to bring farm safety to the top of the agricultural agenda through this latest initiative.