Farm Safety Highlighted again Following Tragic Week.
In the week just passed, farm safety was once again thrust into the spotlight. Following the most recent tragedies on Irish farms the question is once again asked, what can be done to reduce farm related deaths?
Why are there so many deaths on Irish farms in this day and age? When we consider the prevalence of media awareness campaigns on farm safety and the ease with which education and information can now be accessed, you feel like these tragic stories should be far less frequent.
So why are we still amassing high numbers when we consider the statistics of injuries and fatalities on Irish Farms? Why are the extensive media campaigns not having the fully desired effect?
The most common causes of these deaths are tractors/farm vehicles and machinery related (totaling 48% when considered together), with deaths from livestock 14%, drowning/gas 10% and falls from height 10% accounting for the vast majority of deaths on farms between 2006-2015.
Statistics published by the Health and Safety Authority inform us that, without doubt, the young and the old are the most at risk ages on Irish farms. In 2015, the deaths from the 0-17 year olds and the 55+ categories accounted for over 70% fatalities, with the 55+ category contributing over 50% on its own.
The death of children on farms, while completely tragic, can be , to some degree, attributed to their own natural innocence. The deaths of experienced farmers, who are fully versed on all potential threats on the farm, is more difficult to dissect.
I was involved in a conversation very recently on the topic of our poor safety record on farms when an interesting point was raised. I was asked to think about doctors, teachers and other professionals I knew of who are over the age of 50 and consider roughly how many of them wear glasses.
‘At least half,’ I thought, but possibly more.
Then I was asked to consider how many farmers I knew of who are 50 and over, who wear glasses while working or otherwise and I struggled then and now to even think of a couple.
The point raised was this; our farmers, the majority of whom are now 50 or over, do not, as a group, look after themselves. They do not regularly see a doctor, get their eyes checked or worry about maintaining their own health and fitness. This, on top of the increasing demands for efficiency and productivity on farms, which has increased workload in most cases, must also increase fatigue among men of an age where their energy diminishes naturally.
It then begs the question, are farmers, of 50 years and over, consistently fit enough for the nature of the work being undertaken? Are our farmers as alert and aware as they possibly can be , to make farms safer? With the workloads undertaken by farmers today is it even possible to expect them to be at peak fitness , energy and awareness all the time?
If an accountant is fatigued at work, a file may be left in the wrong place or a miscalculation may occur. If a farmer is fatigued at work, it could be the difference between life and death.
What could be done? Or am I totally wrong and nothing is to be done? How could farmers be encouraged to maintain peak mental and physical fitness to help keep the farm as safe as possible and ensure they have the energy to remain vigilant and alert? Do farmers even have the time to take care of themselves? Or is there a case that farmers must prioritise themselves more?
I’m open to correction on this blog. My opinion here is not backed up by surveys or research. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree but I do find it hard to believe that the fitness and well- being of farmers wouldn’t be a factor in safety on Irish farms.
Take a look at all of the stats related to fatal farm accidents on the HSA website.