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Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Farmers' association urges caution as busy farms signal rise in accidents

Last year, 21 people died in farm related incidents, mainly injured by equipment and livestock.
Mar 9th 2013, 7:00 AM 4,176 4

THE IRISH CATTLE and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has urged farmers to be cautious as the recent spell of good weather as well as calving and lambing have combined to make farms more busy.

Last year 21 people died of farm-related injuries. The most common fatalities related to vehicles or equipment falling on or crushing victims, though several people were also attacked by livestock.

With 139,829 active farms in Ireland, the ICSA said it is estimated that around 500,000 people are exposed to health and safety risks while carrying out farm-related activities.

ICSA Connaught/Ulster vice president and spokesman on farm safety, John Flynn, told TheJournal.ie that the association is urging farmers to “take stock and prioritise farm safety at this busy time of year”.

“The main injuries would be with machinery, tractors, vehicles and quads and as the older farmers are aging, their mobility is affected, their eyesight and they balance,” he said.

“The average age now for a farmer in Ireland is 57 plus, so as part of our action plan we’re encouraging farmers to take part on some of the training modules out there.”

Flynn said that farming organisations have a number of training opportunities available but that older farmers tend to feel that they don’t need it.

“You’ll find the younger farmers will go to them a lot and what we’re saying is that this would be a very progressive step and a major education.”

As the workload in the spring increases, this can lead to fatigue and errors that would otherwise have been avoided.

In addition, farmers need to be extra careful around cows after calving. Since Ireland joined the European Union, new breeds have been introduced that develop very quickly but they are also high strung and can be dangerous.

“It is not always easy when there is a newborn calf that needs feeding and perhaps we should be looking at rural development funds to provide support for the installation of better calving and handling facilities on farm,” Flynn said.

Flynn said the best way for farmers to protect themselves from injuries was to take part in training or to at least watch some health and safety DVDs.

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Michelle Hennessy

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