New bid to improve safety on Irish farms

FARMERS in the West have been asked to fully support a new Farm Safety Survey aimed at identifying key factors that could help to save lives on the land over the coming years.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) have sent out 3,000 confidential questionnaires to farmers randomly selected from all over the country, in a bid to spot the factors that can lead to high risk situations developing.

Patricia Murray, Occupational Psychologist and Inspector with the HSA, who is steering the project, said it was important to stress that this survey was not about blame or identifying wrong.

“It is entirely confidential and there will be no follow-up contact. We believe that the information provided will prove very useful in supporting and informing the Authority’s role in promoting the benefits of improved health and safety compliance and performance for farmers,” said Patricia Murray.

According to the HSA, while the overall workforce engaged in farming is small (roughly 6%), farming still accounts for a high proportion of workplace fatalities (over 40% in 2012).

 “At this stage last year there were 11 people dead from farm accidents. So far this year there has been a large reduction in the number of fatal accidents occurring on farms, with just two fatalities so far this year.

“The Authority is cautiously optimistic, is in the past there have been large reductions in previous years only to be followed by significant increases in deaths the next year,” the HSA stated.

 Last week in the Senate a strong speech on farm safety was delivered by Labour’s Lorraine Higgins who said that a comprehensive farm safety campaign must be maintained on a yearly basis in order to address the unacceptably high numbers of farmyard accidents.

“By the HSA’s own estimate, during the period 2000 to 2010, 30% of child deaths on farms were caused by drowning in slurry pits. During the same period, 8% of deaths of elderly farmers over the age of 65 were caused in similar circumstances.

“The risks associated with slurry pits have regrettably been highlighted by the tragic deaths of the members of the Spence family last year, which we all remember. We need ideas to address this silent killer.

“It is imperative that the Ministers in the Department would direct the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine to summon the necessary chemical experts before it reports on the potential for development of a chemical that might go some way towards breaking up the slurry and relieving the farmer and his family from having to engage in this highly dangerous agitation process,” suggested Senator Higgins.

Co. Galway IFA Chairman, Michael Flynn, urged farmers receiving the questionnaire to fill it up and return it to the HSA.

“Anything that can contribute to farm safety, we support wholeheartedly. Too many farmers have suffered death and serious injury in the course of their work over recent years,” said Michael Flynn.