The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is urging all farmers and contractors to carefully plan their work and complete their risk assessments as the busy silage season gets underway.
It comes as the latest data shows tractors, vehicles and farm machinery are the biggest cause of farm-related fatalities, accounting for over half of farm-related deaths from 2011 – 2020.
Over the past decade, 113 people, 18 of whom were children and young persons under the age of 18, have been killed in farming-related workplace incidents involving tractors, vehicles and machinery.
“We’re advising farmers to take time to plan for a safe silage season,” said Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority.
“Serious life changing injuries can be prevented and lives can be saved if farmers and contractors plan their work in advance, ensure important precautions are taken and make safety their number one priority. I would urge all farmers and contractors to review their risk assessments.
"Complete the Farm Safety Risk Assessment document or do it online at www.farmsafely.com , which includes a dedicated “harvesting” checklist to help identify any necessary safety improvements”.
The HSA Farm Safety checklist:
The majority of fatalities with tractors and farm machinery involve a combination of poor planning, operator error, lack of training, maintenance issues or the presence of children/elderly near work activity. Farmers need to consider the following questions ahead of silage season:
Has the work activity been planned in advance?
Are all operators competent and fit for work?
Are handbrakes or parking brakes working properly?
Are cabs and doors in good condition?
Are tractor mirrors cleaned, set and maintained correctly?
Is work organised to avoid the presence of young children or other vulnerable individuals such as elderly family members?
Are traffic flows and limits on pit heights agreed?
Is operator fatigue monitored and managed?
Farmers should check all tractors and machinery are suitable for the job and properly maintained, paying particular attention to checking brakes, steering, hitching of trailers and ensuring good driver visibility. It is important to check that all tractor and machinery operators are skilled and competent in the operation of the machinery assigned to them and that they know and understand the system and workflow to be used that puts everyone’s safety first.
Farmer Aengus Mannion was almost crushed to death when a teleporter rolled over him on a farm in Navan in 2011. The Sligo native said thankfully a neighbour heard his cries and raised the alarm.
“It all happened in a flash. I parked the teleporter to check a fence and next thing I knew the teleporter got me from behind and the blade rammed me into a tree,” said Mr Mannion. The pain was excruciating. I thought both my legs had been chopped off. There was blood everywhere. I was an hour and 20 minutes screaming for help, drifting in and out of consciousness. I thought at one stage, this is it. I’m going to die. Luckily, great neighbours heard my cries and phoned the emergency services. I spent 9 hours in surgery the first night and have undergone a total of 29 operations. Thankfully, I’m back on my feet – but many are not so fortunate. It’s so important for all farmers to put the right safety checks in place and make it a top priority each and every day,” he added.
Dr Éimear Smith, Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine, Medical Director of the Spinal Cord Injury Programme at the National Rehabilitation Hospital and Consultant at the National Spinal Injuries Unit in the Mater Hospital stated, “In the National Rehabilitation Hospital, we see a number of farmers every year who have sustained sometimes life-threatening, but always life-changing injuries. Patients with traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury may see some improvements in their condition but are usually left with life-long impairments. Traumatic limb amputation is unfortunately permanent. Farmers sustaining these injuries often spend a number of months in hospital between acute care and rehabilitation, learning to adapt to their new circumstances. While we encourage all patients in rehabilitation to return to work, this simply isn’t possible for some farmers. I would encourage all farmers to engage with the HSA guidance and safety advice for tractors and machinery, during this busy season. “
For further information on farm safety visit www.hsa.ie. To complete a farm risk assessment visit www.farmsafely.com.