By Kim O'Leary
Farm safety was to the fore at the Tullamore Show today (Sunday 12th August) with more than 60,000 people expected to attend the 24th Tullamore Show which is taking place outside the Co Offaly town today, with more than 1,000 competitions in the show, and 2,000 animals set to take part and there is also a €175,000 in prize money up for grabs in the FBD National Livestock Show.
Mairead McGuinness MEP for Kildare and first Vice-President of the European Parliament launched the Embrace Farm ‘Drive to Remember’, a 32 county tractor drive and opened the ‘Farm Safety Live’ stand.
“The Drive to Remember event is a superb awareness raising and remembering initiative that will shine a light on the lives lost on farms in every county of the island and recall those injured, many seriously, in accidents on farms,” she said
Under the campaign a tractor donated by WR Shaw of Tullamore will visit all counties over the next few weeks. It will be driven by members of Macra Na Feirme and the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster.
“I cannot praise highly enough the work of Brian and Norma Rohan who set up Embrace Farm following their own family tragedy. The charity is helping farm families dealing with tragic accidents. It’s also keeping the crucial issue of farm safety in the public eye,” she said.
Also launching the ‘Farm Safely Live’ stand the MEP said attitudes to and within farming must change if we are to really address the totally unacceptable level of accidents on farms, which lead to a high level of fatalities and serious injury.
The stand, jointly organised by the Farm Relief Service, FBD and the Health and Safety Authority, focuses on ways to reduce accidents when working with machinery and livestock.
The MEP herself is working for an EU wide response to the issue. Already this year 16 people have been killed on farms in Southern Ireland with 7 killed in the 2017/18 period in Northern Ireland.
“It is likely that many of these people - men, women and a child - were here at the Tullamore Show last year. It is a huge tragedy for the families left behind and we must make every effort to ensure that in a year’s time we do not see a repeat of these awful statistics, with all the heartache it brings,” she said.
The MEP said that the often idyllic portrayal of the family farm is far removed from the hard reality of the day-to-day tasks undertaken by farmers dealing with heavy machinery and livestock.
“I am concerned that because farming is family based there is a different attitude to safety procedures and risk assessment than would be the norm in any other business, including family run businesses.
“We have to ask why this is the case and then to address this problem head-on.
“The Health and Safety Authority and the farm organisations are working together to hammer home the risks farmers face when they step into the farmyard.
“There is a keen awareness among farmers that the work they do can be dangerous and that precautions are needed to remove the risk of accidents happening. Yet this awareness is often left behind when routine jobs are undertaken or when particular jobs are being undertaken under pressure.
“It’s precisely during these time pressured stressful periods that the five clear priorities identified by the HSA as a means to farming more safely are implemented – particularly advance planning,” she said.
The MEP said training is also important for farmers of all ages, even those who have been doing the job for years – learning how to manage and control machinery and animal movements is especially important.
“We know that half of all deaths on farms are associated with machinery or tractor use. Tractors and quads are the most deadly machines in the country.”
And, she said, age is also a factor with farmers over age 60 at very high risk of death and injury.
“The farmyard is a place of work and places of work must be safe to work in with procedures practiced to ensure that risks are mitigated. If we are going to save lives and protect those who work on farms from serious injury then farms must be treated like any other workplace in terms of health and safety,” she said.
Ms McGuinness said this involves change in behaviour, attitudes and work practices. But she also said financial pressures and the stresses arising from this and working under weather related and time pressures are contributing to the problem.
“Poor weather conditions and financial pressures mean rising stress levels.Farmers are beginning to talk to each other about these pressures and should be encouraged to look for help where the pressures are getting too much,” she said.
The MEP commended the Farm Relief Service, FBD and the Health and Safety Authority for coming together to raise awareness about these important issues at the Tullamore Show.
The ‘Drive to Safety’ finish point will be on the opening day of the National Ploughing Championships on Tuesday September 18th and is supported by the National Ploughing Association.
Mounted on the tractor will be an eternal light representing those who have lost their lives on farms.
Some 290 lives have been lost on farms in the last ten years, representing a farmer killed every two weeks across the 32 counties.
Embrace Farm is asking families and neighbours who may have been affected by the loss or serious injury of a relative or friend to place a pair of wellies in the trailer – these will be placed on the Embrace Farm stand at the Ploughing Championship, representing the feet that once walked the farm. #werememberyou #farmsafety
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