Three out of the nine farm fatalities reported by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) for 2021 occurred in Co Cavan.

The county had the highest number of farm deaths out of any county.

Two farm fatalities occurred in Co Limerick, while counties Donegal, Mayo, Sligo and Tipperary had one farm fatality each over the last 12 months. There were no farm deaths in Leinster.

Overall, the number of work-place fatalities in farming more than halved in 2021 (9) compared with those in 2020 (20), according to the HSA figures.

However, the farm fatality statistics from Northern Ireland were not positive, with the number of fatalities increasing to seven in 2021, up from four in 2020.

This means that the total number of farm-related deaths on the island of Ireland last year was 16, down from 24 in 2020.

No deaths caused by machinery

In a statement to the Irish Farmers Journal, the HSA said that while some incidents may have involved machinery, the authority records the cause or the trigger of each farm incident.

“At present, it appears that none of the nine fatalities were caused by machinery [in the Republic]. Some cases are still pending post mortem results.

“At present, it appears that three fatalities were caused by livestock, one of which was caused by a bull.”

Of the seven fatal farm accidents in Northern Ireland in 2021, three related to farm equipment or vehicles, a further three involved falls or the victim being struck by falling items, while one related to slurry gas.

Child death

Of the nine farm fatalities on Irish farms last year, one of these incidents involved a child. The other eight fatalities were of adults.

Seven of the deaths were self-employed farmers, one was a farm employee and one was a family worker, according to the HSA.

The HSA noted that all fatality data is provisional and subject to change.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal on the three farm fatalities in Co Cavan, Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) Cavan chair Elizabeth Ormiston shared her sympathies with the families involved and said “safety should be the first priority for all on Irish farms”.

“I would encourage all of us to stop, think and pay attention to detail every day in order to avoid farm accidents.”

Pandemic impact

The increased support and help which farmers enjoyed during the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2021 may have contributed to the sharp fall in farm deaths last year, according to the HSA.

Chief inspector Mark Cullen said the availability of additional assistance on farms might have been a factor.

“Anecdotally, we could say that COVID-19 has brought health and safety to the forefront of all our minds.

“Due to the restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19, some farmers may have also seen more family staying at home during this time, which could have provided extra support and resources during busy times.

“Farming continues to be one of the most dangerous sectors in which to work, but a 50% decline on the 2020 level of fatalities is encouraging and a sign that the safety message is getting through.”

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Farm fatalities fall by 50% in 2021