Statistics make tedious reading but statistics are a harsh reminder that in 2017 out of a total of 47 workplace deaths in Ireland, 24 farmers died in work related accident.

The National Farm Survey (NFS) published on behalf of Teagasc (The Agriculture and Food Development Authority) earlier this year highlighted the fact that farm accidents have risen by 13% in the last 5 years and 31% in the last ten years. The survey found that in the five year period 2012-2017 that 11% of farms had an accidents and that a total of 2,814 accident occurred.

Dairy farms had the highest accident rate of 18% over the survey period compared to tillage farms (12%) and sheep farms (11%).    42% of accidents involved livestock with farm vehicles or machinery involved in a further 25%.  Trips or falls resulted in 13% of farm accidents followed by chainsaws (7%) and farm buildings (6%).  Almost two-thirds of farm accidents occurred in the farmyard (64%) and a further 15% in farm buildings.  One fifth of accidents (19%) were in fields with just 2% on farm roadways or lanes.

The survey found that the vast majority of on-farm accidents (92%) involved a family member, with 80% occurring to the farmer.  Twelve per cent involved a spouse or another family member.  The remaining proportion of accident involved workers (5%) and others (3%).  Almost all farm accident victims (97%) required medical treatment with (73%) attending hospital, a further 19% attending a doctor and 4% received first aid. Tragically 1% of the accident reported resulted in a fatality.

In terms of work time loss due to a farm accident, almost one-third (30%) of accidents resulted in a work absence of more than a month, with 21% being more than two months.  Thirteen per cent of accidents resulted in an 11 to 30 days work absence, 22% a 4 to 10 days work absence, and 1-3 days an 18% absence respectively.  Just 17% of accidents resulted in nor work time loss.

The survey data indicated that younger farmers are more likely to have non-fatal accident in contrast to a fatal accident.  Thirteen per cent of farmers in the 40-50 and 50-60 age brackets suffered a farm accident, followed by 12% for farmers below 40 years of age.  Nine per cent of farmers aged 60-70 and 7% over 70 years of age suffered a farm accident over the time frame of the survey.

In response to the survey, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, T.D. stated that the non-fatal accident statistics make for stark reading and highlight that behaviour is an important part of safety. He said that farmers need to take time to plan their work and not take risks.   He noted that the impact on farm families of serious accidents is unquantifiable and appealed to farmers to make the change to keep safe.   Teagasc Director, Prof. Gerry Boyle also commented that “Farm accidents cause tragedy pain and suffering, disability and economic loss, so it is vital to give safety first priority.  He said that Teagasc would be focusing on lessons from the survey findings in its efforts to assist farmers to improve farm safety.

Significantly Teagasc and the HSA also earlier this year renewed a joint initiative promoting farm safety and health for a further three years. This “Joint initiative Agreement” aims to provide research, training and advisory support to farmers on the topic of health and safety. According to the HSA, the renewal of the joint initiative comes at a challenging time for farming due to the expansion and an ageing farmer population.

In early November, 2018 agri related accidents came up for discussion at the ICOS conference (Irish Co-operative Organisation Society).

FBD Insurance Chief Executive Fiona Muldoon spoke about agri-safety in the context of accident claims in agri-business locations (livestock marts) in the fact that such claims are driving the cost of insurance to be a loss-making business.  The risk assessment carried out by FBD provides valuable data in relation to the causes of accident at marts.  According to FBD, the most common cause of liability claims at marts are injuries caused by livestock.   Ciaran Roche, risk manager with FBD said one of the more common accidents at marts happens when cattle are being loaded and unloaded and can kick or crush people.  Another common accident, he said was incidents involving gates hitting a member of the public or an employee.  He also said people with their arms up on barriers around the main mart ring were more likely to be involved in an accident and making a claim.   The conference was told that Mart Co-op boards across the country are considering a series of recommendations drawn up to help reduce accident risk level and lower insurance premiums, with many marts in the west already implementing regulations.    Among the risk-reducing recommendations being considered include ensuring members of the public do not have access to the penning areas and central passageways.  It is also looking at making it compulsory that all mart staff wear jackets for clearer identification.  In addition, mart drovers would supervise all loading and unloading of cattle and the back ramp would be opened and closed by the farmer rather than mart staff.   Another measure to be considered is to restrict viewing times of the cattle on sale.

For farmers and workers in the agri-industry the importance of a safe place and system of work cannot be overstated.  Preventing work place accidents from occurring is not only about safe work practices but vigilance and awareness of risk and eliminating risk as much as is possible.    Unfortunately can all get complacent about safety in our work environments.    Farmers are no different in this respect.  Time, costs and weather constraints make farming a stressful work environment and contribute to farmers becoming risk-averse.    The farming community must wake up to farm safety and avoid as much as possible unnecessary accidents which result all too often in life changing injuries and fatalities.

Patricia Hynes is a Solicitor in the Litigation Department of FitzGerald Legal & Advisory Cork and advises and represents clients in relation to all aspects of litigation, including, Personal Injuries Litigation and Medical Negligence Litigation.

 Contact Patricia Hynes at FitzGerald Legal & Advisory at 353 (0)21 4279800 if you would like more information.

In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.”






Leave a reply