Farmers in Ireland are being urged to prioritize farm safety during Farm Safety Week 2023, which is themed “Make farm safety a way of life.” The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is leading the 11th annual campaign, which kicked off on Monday, July 17, with a particular focus on increasing vehicle safety. Recent figures from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) show that tractors account for 53% of vehicle-related farm deaths, with elderly farmers and children at a higher risk.
The IFA president, Tim Cullinan, is encouraging farmers to take the time this week to review their working practices and ensure their farms are safe. Cullinan stated, “The rate of farm accidents and fatalities is too high, and we need to make a change and think safety first. We must reduce the risks in our workplace. Every safety procedure reduces the risk of accident or worse. We need to adopt a stronger culture of farm safety, and we are asking farmers to do this now.”
According to HSA statistics from 2013-2022, 45% of work-related fatalities in agriculture in Ireland were caused by tractors and farm vehicles such as quad bikes and loaders. Additionally, 18% of farm fatalities involved work with livestock. On average, 19 people are killed in farm accidents every year. Attacks by cows with calves accounted for 29% of fatalities caused by livestock, while quad bikes made up 12% of vehicle-related deaths. The IFA also highlighted that 42% of worker victims were aged 65 years or older, 60% of quad bike accidents involved people over 60 years of age, and 85% of child fatalities involved vehicles and machinery.
The IFA emphasized the upcoming regulations for quad bikes (ATVs), which will require all operators to complete a training course provided by a registered training provider to a QQI Standard or equivalent. Operators must also wear appropriate head protection while operating a quad bike. These regulations will come into force in November 2023.
The goal of this year’s Farm Safety Week campaign is to encourage farmers to make farm safety a “way of life” in order to protect their families from life-changing and life-ending incidents. Alice Doyle, the IFA national farm family and social affairs chair, emphasized the importance of prioritizing farm safety and incorporating it into every aspect of farm life. Martin Heydon, Minister of State with special responsibility for farm safety at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), echoed this sentiment, stating that farming should never cost an arm, a leg, or a life. He urged all farmers to use this week as an opportunity to commit themselves and their families to making their farms safer places to live and work.
Teagasc director Prof. Frank O’Mara expressed strong support for Farm Safety Week 2023 and encouraged farmers to use the week to enhance health and safety management on their farms. It is essential for farmers to prioritize farm safety and consistently identify and mitigate risks before undertaking any tasks. By promoting a culture of safety, the risks involved in farming can be significantly reduced.
In conclusion, Farm Safety Week 2023 aims to raise awareness about the importance of farm safety and encourage farmers to make it a part of their everyday lives. By implementing safety procedures, completing training courses, and wearing appropriate protective equipment, farmers can create safer working environments and protect themselves and their families from accidents and fatalities.