A requirement for tractors drawing silage during the summer to be fitted with a tachograph, similar to those in buses and trucks, is worth considering in the fight to prevent machinery-related fatalities, Health and Safety Authority (HSA) senior inspector Pat Griffin has told the Irish Farmers Journal.
His comments come as a new report from the HSA revealed that tractors accounted for 29% of all work-related deaths involving vehicles over the 10-year period from 2010 to 2019.
“This statistic tells us there is a clear problem for agriculture. In no other sector do we see as many deaths.
“A lot of these incidents are attributed to fatigue, particularly around the silage season,” Griffin said.
“Tachographs are worth consideration and would bring silage contractors in line with the practices of other industries such as trucking.”
Under EU and national law, the cab of trucks and buses must be fitted with recording devices known as tachographs.
Their function is to record the driving times, breaks and rest periods of individual drivers.
Vehicle speed, distance travelled and other related metrics are also logged.
“I understand there’s a lot of pressure on contractors to move on to the next farm and get the work done but, at the end of the day, fatigue and rushing puts people’s lives at risk and it’s unacceptable,” Griffin continued.
“Fatigue can be every bit as dangerous as drink driving. It’s obvious that greater controls need to be brought in.
“The HSA provides farmers and contractors with a code of practice but you still see silage being drawn in at 11pm at night.”
The HSA inspector also highlighted its concerns around the use of young drivers to operate machinery.
“We know that contractors use young fellas during the summer months. It’s unacceptable to let these guys operate these machines when they only have a W licence and no experience,” Griffin said.
“They need months of practice before they can be trusted to be let off on their own. I also would ask contractors to have suitable communication IT on tractors in order to keep workers off their phones.
“No giving spins to kids on tractors either. Busy farmyards are dangerous, and no place for children.”
Dr Eimear Smith Consultant in rehabilitation medicine at the National Rehabilitation Hospital
“I deal with the most severe cases, where a farmer has sustained overwhelming and life-threatening injuries.
“Families are faced with long periods of uncertainty after these incidents. Many ask will their loved one survive and if they do what quality of life will they have.
“I’ve encountered many farmers who have been thrown off quads and out of tractors once control of the vehicle has been lost, which can come as a result of a multitude of factors.
“Many who are lucky to survive face months in acute hospital care and then years in rehabilitation. These injuries can be life changing.
“Many have to adapt their homes to meet their medical needs such as in the case of paralysis.
“A lot of farmers are forced to sell their stock entirely shortly after their accident. Land is usually auctioned off a couple of years down the line.”
“These incidents happen all year round but in the summer months they always come to a peak. Farmers need to be aware of the added risks and remain safe during what are very dangerous months on farm.”
Aengus Mannion, Co Sligo
One evening in May 2009, I went out to check on the stock and decided on this occasion to bring the teleporter with me. I got out to attend to a fence which had a gap in it and a large group of heifers gathered around.
“I had the bucket buried in the ground but, unfortunately, the teleporter came loose and rolled forward, crushing me up against a tree in the process.
“For an hour and a half, I dipped in and out of consciousness while screaming for help. An elderly lady down the valley heard my cries and was able to alert the authorities.
“After 29 operations and many years of rehabilitation I regained my ability to walk. You never come out of these incidents 100% but some of us are lucky to be still around.
“Machines can be replaced but you can’t. We all take chances where we shouldn’t. That needs to stop.”