Minister Pat Breen and Minister Michael Creed meet with farming organisations in a renewed drive to tackle farm accidents and deaths

May 30th, 2017 - Pat Breen

Both Ministers express strong desire to make the summer of 2017 a safe summer for farm families

The Minister for Employment and Small Business, Mr. Pat Breen, TD, and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Michael Creed, TD, today (Tuesday 30th May 2017) met with a broad range of farming sector representatives to express their concern at the ongoing high level of farm accidents and deaths and to call on the farming community to collectively, and individually, re-double their efforts to reduce and eliminate farm accidents and fatalities. This is especially timely during the summer season and with school holidays just around the corner there will be an increased presence of children on the farm.

Minister Breen said that the Government is committed to tackling farm safety issues and he commended the Health and Safety Authority for their work with the farming sector and welcomed the Authority’s new Code of Practice on Preventing Injury and Occupational ill Health in Agriculture.

Both Ministers highlighted the starkness of the statistics associated with farming. Across all work sectors 520 people were killed in work-related accidents in the period 2007 – 2016 while in the last seven years, 138 people have been killed in farm accidents alone, making farming the most dangerous occupation in terms of fatalities. The recent ESRI Report, which Minister Breen launched last week, on “Risk Taking and Accidents on Irish Farms” has provided a useful insight into the conditions, attitudes and behaviours that can – often unwittingly – lead to accidents and fatalities on farms in Ireland. It also highlighted some revealing statistics. For example, 27% – more than one in four – of those interviewed by the ESRI had experienced a “near miss” on the farm in previous 10 years. One in eight (12%) had experienced an actual accident. These are unacceptably high figures relative to other sectors.

In the first four months of this year alone, there were 11 fatal accidents on Irish farms. The repercussions of a fatality or an accident can be catastrophic for a farm family – it can leave a victim unable to continue to work effectively on their farm, can lead to hardship and financial difficulties for years to come and can even lead to the loss of the family home

Minister Breen said that there is still a clear and urgent need to change the whole culture in relation to farm safety. “I am calling on the farming community, and the organisations that represent it, to use their collective expertise and influence to spearhead cultural and behavioural change at farm level”

Minister Creed said that it is important for everyone to continually highlight the need for farmers to put safety first in all tasks they perform, irrespective of the pressure. “While there are many risks in farming, farming does not have to be a dangerous occupation. Behavioural change is what is required to prevent many accidents. It is a case of being aware of the dangers and taking the time to do what is necessary to minimise the risk.”

Farming is a physical activity and while exposure to risks cannot be totally avoided, they must be – and can be – managed and controlled. The identification, management and control of risk on the farm undoubtedly requires better attention.

Both Ministers pledged that the Government and the HSA will continue to be to the forefront in providing support aimed at reducing the incidence of accidents and fatalities on farms. But there simply cannot be a HSA inspector at every farm gate. Farmers themselves, along with their families and their Communities, have a vital role to play in farm safety in the first instance. There needs to be a shift in thinking to allow health and safety considerations in farm work to become much more prominent and widespread.

Ministers Breen and Creed concluded by thanking the farming organisations for their attendance and continued collaboration in addressing this important issue.