Farmers slow to get help with tough jobs

Farmers routinely fail to get help with difficult jobs, can be lax at using safety gear and don’t always check machinery is in good working order before use.

Overlooking these precautions is strongly associated with accidents and near misses on the farm, sometimes involving the farmer, and sometimes affecting others.

A report titled Risk Taking and Accidents on Irish Farms, published today, also found those with larger farms were more likely to take risks by not routinely using safety gear: the odds of this were almost three times as high on the largest farms (more than 100 hectares) than on the smallest farms (less than 20 hectares).

Dorothy Watson, one of the report’s authors, said this may be because farmers were having to work harder over a larger area.

“All of the farmers we looked at were self-employed and had no full-time employees so they are probably working harder and are stretched over a bigger area,” she said.

The report, part of ongoing research by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Health Safety Authority (HSE), examined risk-taking in terms of failing to routinely take safety precautions across six categories. Getting help with difficult jobs was the area where farmers were most remiss. More than a quarter (27%) didn’t routinely take that precaution. Furthermore, the report found: 

*26% didn’t use safety gear, such as goggles, ear muffs, high-viz vests 

*12% didn’t take the precaution of using power take-off (PTO) or machinery guards.

*11% didn’t routinely check that machinery is in good working order before use.

*Just eight percent used restraining or handling facilities when treating animals and just three percent routinely kept chemicals stored away from access by children.

Ms Watson said the results highlight the significance of getting help with difficult jobs and checking machinery in reducing the risk of accidents in farming.

“Future policies should emphasise the importance of getting help with difficult tasks on the farm, as the research indicated that failing to do so is associated with a higher risk of accidents and near misses," Ms Watson said.

Martin O’Halloran, chief executive of the HSA said: “Once we understand what triggers risk-taking on farms we can implement strategies that are appropriate for the industry, and will bring about a sustained reduction in accidents."

In the last seven years, 138 people have been killed in farm accidents, making farming the most dangerous occupation in terms of fatalities.

Overall, 12% of the 800 farmers surveyed were personally involved in an accident; 27% had a near miss and eight percent reported someone else had been involved in an accident on their farm. Only half who had experienced an accident reported subsequently making changes on the farm.

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