Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland farmers urged to put safety first as deaths increase

Four of the deaths were caused by animals and two involved machinery, the Health and Safety Executive said.

The UFU’s Victor Chestnutt (Cliff Donaldson/PA)
The UFU’s Victor Chestnutt (Cliff Donaldson/PA)

Northern Ireland farmers have been urged to put their own own safety first ahead of the pressures of the job.

It comes as it was revealed eight people died in agricultural incidents in Northern Ireland last year, an increase of one on the previous year.

Four of the deaths were caused by animals, two were connected with machinery, one involved a fall, and the cause of the final death was described as “other”.

The Health and Safety Executive highlighted the deaths as part of Farm Safety week.

While the number of deaths in 2018 was an increase it was down from 2011 and 2012 when 12 fatalities were recorded each year.

Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president Victor Chestnutt said safety on the farm had to be top of the agenda.

"The much-needed work of the Farm Safety Partnership, has improved the awareness of farm safety however, it is clear that it remains an ongoing concern for every farming family – even one death on a farm is too many," he said.

“With a lengthy to-do list pressurised by numerous factors such as time constraints and weather, farmers can sometimes put their own safety at risk to get jobs done. I would encourage all farmers to stop and think farm safe before tackling a task.

"Slurry, animals, falls, and equipment continue to account for the majority of farm accidents and it only takes a spilt second for a life changing injury or fatality to happen, many of which can be avoided. This is why the vital message of farm safety needs to be repeated so that it remains at the top of the agenda for farmers and their families.”

The Health and Safety Executive also expressed concern at the number of non-fatal injuries, saying it believes there is a significant degree of under reporting.  A 2015 survey of farmers in Northern Ireland suggested there could be as many as 100 incidents per month on farms which require hospital treatment.

Mr Chestnutt said farmers could take simple steps to keep themselves and others safe on their farm.

“I would encourage every farmer to make safety a priority and think of their loved ones," he continued.

"A farm accident or fatality is heartbreaking for any family and it is also likely to have a serve impact on the farm business and the local community. I urge everyone in the farming community to do what they can to promote farm safety so that we can ensure a long term and sustainable reduction in fatal accidents related to agricultural activities,” said the UFU deputy president.

Malcolm Downey, principal inspector at the Health and Safety Executive said farming and food production play a crucial role in the life and economy of Northern Ireland.

“But every year we have to reluctantly report that agriculture has the poorest safety record of any occupation here," he added.

“All too often accidents happen on our farms which are preventable, so we want to continue to raise awareness for everyone working on, or visiting, a working farm.

“HSENI is committed to work with our partners on the NI Farm Safety Partnership and the Farm Safety Foundation on initiatives like Farm Safety Week to inform their activities and drive forward improvements in safety performance.

“We know that we need to engage with farmers of all ages to tackle this poor safety record and make farms safer places to work.”

For more information on Farm Safety Week, visit www.yellowwellies.org or follow @yellowwelliesUK on Twitter/Facebook.

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