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Farm Safety Week: ‘It can be a dangerous place where the unthinkable can happen in a matter of seconds’

Farm Safety Week

There’s hardly a farm family in the country that haven’t had an accident over the years.

Some have been minor bumps or scrapes, more have led to broken bones, some have been life-changing and others have been tragic.

The dangers associated with working on a farm is why IFA runs a Farm Safety Week each year and this week marks their ninth annual event, an initiative run in conjunction with Yellow Wellies UK. .

“The message for this year is: Rethink Safety, which aims to encourage a deeper awareness of everyday risks on farms and the practical steps needed to reduce risk,” said the IFA in a statement this week..

Farm Safety Week (FSW) is supported by several agencies, including the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee members.

The week is an integral part of the annual calendar as it puts a focus on how farm families can continually improve their approach to farm safety.

With there being a strong focus on tillage farming in certain areas of Laois, this week has also marked the start of the grain harvest – which brings its own pressures and demands as farmers bid to get their crops cut, grain delivered and straw baled.

Add in the uncertainty over weather, contractors in demand to move to the next job and the current heat and you have the perfect cocktail for mistakes to happen – some which can have devastating consequences.

For children, farms can be very exciting places – but also places of great danger. And that’s a message that the IFA are focusing on strongly.

“While children look forward to being home on the farm for the summer, now is an important time to have conversations about safety,” says Laois IFA chairman John Fitzpatrick.

“Tell them about the dangers and set the rules. But don’t expect a child to take on the responsibility of keeping themselves safe. Children do not understand risk.

“Farms can be family homes as well as workplaces, with children often present. Tragically, between 2011 and 2020, in Ireland, 21 children lost their lives due to farm accidents.

“Summer is a hazardous time for children on farms as they’re off school and are about more when work activity is running at a very high level – often with contractors on-site operating potentially dangerous vehicles and machinery.

“A farm can be a magical place for children, where independence and responsibility are fostered and family relationships are strengthened.

“Still, it can also be a dangerous place where the unthinkable can happen in a matter of seconds. Growing up on a farm brings both challenges and blessings. It builds character and a solid work ethic and creates an attitude of optimism, but it also has its dangers, so it is vital to educate children on safety and risks from an early age.

“Every possible step must be taken to reduce the number of fatalities each year on Irish farms. The first step is educating people, especially children.

“If we can instil in their minds, from an early age, an awareness of the dangers on the farm and help them form good farm safety habits, that lesson will be with them for a lifetime.”

“We’re just urging people to rethink safety,” adds Mary Barber from Rathdowney IFA and chairperson of the Laois IFA Farm Family committee.

“Small children love big machines and are obsessed with tractors and trailers – but machinery drivers aren’t baby sitters. You wouldn’t take your child to any other work place so farms are no different.

“Most accidents come about when people are rushing and under pressure – but take the extra time, stop for a few minutes, to ensure things are done safely. You’ll make up the time but you’ll never make up for a looking at a vacant chair.

“In this weather now too it’s also important to make sure you’ve sun cream, hats and plenty of water. And we’d also like to encourage people to stay in touch with those who might be isolated. Take a few minutes to make a call to someone who’d appreciate it – it’s only a small thing but can make a big difference.”

Among the tips being driven by the IFA as part of their Farm Safety campaign are:

  • Farmyards are not playgrounds. Keep children out of work areas and have a fenced-off safe play area in view of the home.
  • Children under 13 years old must not drive or operate tractors or other farm machinery
  • Children must not ride as passengers on ATVs.
  • Children between the ages of 7 and 16 may ride on a tractor provided the tractor is fitted with a properly designed and fitted passenger seat (with seat belts)
  • Practice what you preach – be a good role model and teach children about the possible dangers.
  • Have fencing with mesh right down to the ground – so that children cannot slip through gates and fences or climb over them
  • Have easy to read danger signs and tell children what they mean
  • NEVER allow children to play, climb or have access to stacks of bales.

SEE ALSO – ‘We will make environmental changes … but it’s very hard to fund all of this out of our own pockets’

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.