Irish farmers are seven times more likely to die in a workplace incident than any of the other over 2m workers in Ireland, says Minister for Farm Safety Martin Heydon.

He said this “startling statistic” includes the “seven too many” farm fatalities seen so far in Ireland this year.

“There is not one simple solution to address this and if there was it would have been done a long time ago so it really is a multi-factored approach.

“These families who suffer these life-changing injuries or fatalities never think it will happen to them and they’ve all had risks they’ve identified on their farms that they’ve put on the long finger about fixing. If we can address those risks and get people to mitigate risks and reduce them on their farm, we will reduce the amount of serious injuries and fatalities on our farms.

“It’s a slow process but I believe we’re making really good progress in getting that message across,” he said.

Minister Heydon was speaking at a live farm safety demonstration at the Tullamore National Livestock Show on Sunday. He highlighted the importance of demonstrating farm safety measures in such settings, where farmers are congregated.

‘Changing the culture’

The Minister for Farm Safety highlighted the Department of Agriculture’s partnership with Teagasc which he said will see all Teagasc students undertake specialised farm safety training through the use of a simulator from September. He highlighted this as one measure aimed at “changing the culture” of farm safety on Irish farms.

Speaking in Tullamore, he asked the farmers present to work to “reduce the near misses” on their farms.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister for Farm Safety Martin Heydon were joined by officials from the Health Safety Authority and FBD at the the Tullamore Show farm safety live demonstration.

“Everything we’re doing is about farmers identifying the risks,” he said.

The minister warned that farmers “always talk about the near miss” and said “we wear it nearly as a badge of honour”.

“The fact is, if we can reduce the amount of near misses, we will reduce the amount of fatalities and life-changing injuries that happen on our farms.

“This isn’t an abstract thing for somebody else. This is where every one of us who has farm at home [should] identify the hazards on our farm. Pick that one thing that’s been niggling us that’s not safe that we can make safer. Whether it’s a broken PTO shaft, a cracked man hole cover, make a resolution today with your family that you’re going to go home and fix that this week,” he said.

Fire risk

Minister Heydon described recent fires on farms during the current heatwave conditions as a “new risk because of an extremely dry time”.

He said reducing the fire risk during harvest is about “thinking about the task beforehand, identifying the risk or the hazard and trying to mitigate it, reduce it or take it out if you can altogether”.

Also speaking at the live farm safety demonstration, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue highlighted the importance of early intervention and being prepared when it comes to heatwave farm risks.