Pictured at the launch of Farm Safety Week 2019 - Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture, Caroline Farrell IFA Farm Family Chair, IFA President Joe Healy and Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen. (Picture: Gareth Chaney)

Monday, July 15 marked the start of the seventh annual Farm Safety Week UK & Ireland, an initiative led by the IFA in Ireland, aiming to reduce the number of accidents on farms and bring about a change in culture that makes unsafe practices socially unacceptable.

The message for this year’s campaign is: Save Lives. Think Safety – Farm Safely.

Farm Safety Week is supported by a number of agencies, including the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and members of the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee. Farming continues to have one of the poorest safety records of any sector in Ireland.

Last year, 15 people lost their lives in farm accidents and 12 people have lost their lives so far in 2019.

Reacting to these figures, IFA President Joe Healy said: “The statistics are stark, but statistics don’t tell the whole story – they don’t tell you about the devastating impact a farm fatality has on families and communities; they don’t tell you the impact a farm accident can have on the rest of your life, on your ability to run the farm.

“Understanding the risks on and around a farm operation makes it easier to avoid dangers, and makes accidents less likely. However, all too often farmers do not recognise the risks on their farms, which makes it difficult to manage the problem.”

“That is why in 2018 IFA appointed a Farm Health and Safety Executive to implement a pilot farmer-to-farmer peer learning initiative at branch level, to advise farmers about potential risks and educate them to become safety ambassadors within their communities. The farmers involved in the initiative help to mentor each other by, for example, walking each other’s farms to identify potential risks and visualise how safety works in a real-life situation.

“This kind of informal learning has been shown to be effective because the people involved have the potential to adapt the programme to meet their needs and develop their own approaches to improve safety on the farm.”

Sharon McGuinness, Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority said: “The statistics show that farming is still the most dangerous sector, but this doesn’t have to be the case if appropriate tractor and machinery maintenance is carried out along with the operators receiving the necessary training.

Fatal accidents

“Farmers must take responsibility to prioritise safety, especially when working with tractors and machinery which are the biggest cause of fatal accidents. Farmers should keep all machinery in good working order and have the necessary competence and experience to operate.”

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said: “There are a lot of risks in farming but farming doesn’t have to be a dangerous occupation if you are aware of the risks. We have definitely seen an increased awareness of farm safety, thanks to initiatives like Farm Safety Week, and now we need to build this awareness into action and behavioural change.

“Farmers are very busy, particularly at this time of year, but it’s important to take some time to think about what could improve safety on your farm and in your work practices and then to follow through and make those changes”.

Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen has welcomed Farm Safety Week 2019 and the opportunity it presents to highlight the ongoing need for greater attention to safety in farming.

“There is still a clear and urgent need to change the whole culture in relation to farm safety. In light of the number of farm fatalities so far this year, I am again calling on farmers, their families and their wider community, as well as farming organisations, to use their collective expertise and influence to spearhead the badly needed cultural and behavioural change at farm level in a combined effort to tackle this serious issue.”

Gerry Boyle, Director Teagasc said: “Teagasc strongly supports the Ireland & UK Farm Safety Week. Every season presents its own challenges on the farm. Many farmers think ‘farm safety last’ rather than ‘farm safety first’, but most accidents are avoidable.

“Simple factors such as habit, haste, fatigue, and improperly maintained machinery contribute to this perfect storm but this Farm Safety Week, we hope that by hearing the stories of other farmers who have had personal experience of farm accidents, we can get farmers of all ages to realise that this week and every week, farm safety is a lifestyle.”

For more information on Farm Safety Week visit www.ifa.ie/farm-safety or follow @IFAmedia on Twitter using the hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek