Organisations join the push to improve safety on our farms

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton and Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen today launched the Farm Safety Affiliate Scheme. Pictured at the launch are (l-r): Minister McIlveen, Tom Stephenson, Lakeland Dairies, Minister Hamilton and George Lucas, HSENI and Farm Safety Partnership Chairman.
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton and Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen today launched the Farm Safety Affiliate Scheme. Pictured at the launch are (l-r): Minister McIlveen, Tom Stephenson, Lakeland Dairies, Minister Hamilton and George Lucas, HSENI and Farm Safety Partnership Chairman.

A number of organisations have joined the push to help improve farm safety.

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton and Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen launched the new Farm Safety Affiliate Scheme at Stormont on Tuesday.

The announcement was made as part of Farm Safety Week 2016 which is supported by the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health and Safety Executive, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health and Safety Authority, Ireland.

The Campaign aims to highlight the serious dangers posed by farms and offers themed practical advice and guidance for farmers. This year Farm Safety Week urged farmers to consider “Who Would Fill Your Boots?” if something were to happen to them, or to a family member. Farm Safety Week 2016 focuses on five themes over the five days: Falls, Machinery, Livestock, Transport, Children.

The Affiliate Scheme is part of the Farm Safety Partnership’s (FSP) commitment to encourage and recognise organisations who pledge to utilise their resources and expertise to improve farm safety.

Speaking at the launch Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: “Farming is a vital part of the Northern Ireland economy and it is crucial that we make every effort to improve the health and safety within the industry.

“Since its inception, the Farm Safety Partnership has worked tirelessly to increase awareness about farm safety and to reduce work-related fatalities and injuries on our farms. The 14 organisations recognised today are well placed within the local agricultural community to enhance the good work already undertaken and to keep farm safety to the fore.”

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen added: “I welcome the launch of the Affiliate scheme and I commend the commitment of these organisations to work hard to improve health and safety within the agricultural sector.

“These organisations share our aims to work in partnership to improve the health and safety of the local farming community and I look forward to their efforts to help raise the profile of farm safety in Northern Ireland. I would encourage other organisations who want to demonstrate their commitment to supporting the industry to join the scheme.”

Fourteen organisations from within the commercial, educational and voluntary sectors were awarded Farm Safety Affiliate status and received their membership certificates.

They include ABP Group, AES UK & Ireland, Asda, Danske Bank, Glens of Antrim Potatoes, Girlguiding Ulster, Lakeland Dairies, Livestock & Meat Commission Northern Ireland, Northern Health and Social Care Trust Northern Ireland Safety Group, Power NI, Rural Development Council NI, Ulster Bank and the Ulster University - School of Nursing.

Commenting on the scheme, HSENI and FSP Chairman George Lucas said: “It is great to see so many reputable organisations putting their weight behind the farm safety message. The level of interest in the Affiliate scheme shows how key the issue of safety is within this industry.

“The FSP looks forward to working with these organisations and building on the work already undertaken to help make our farming community safe.”

Friday’s theme featured the story of Co Antrim dairy farmer Wallace Gregg who spoke in a HSENI video of the day his 8-year-old son was injured after falling out of a tractor.

A former president of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU), Wallace is keen to highlight the dangers to children on farms – whether these children are guests or part of the farming family.

October 26th 2015 was a day like any other for the Cloughmills farmer who was preparing to pick up a low loader trailer from a local plant hire company using his Massey Ferguson 5470 tractor. Wallace’s 8 year old son James was on half term holiday and asked his father if he could come along and help. Wallace agreed and he, James and younger brother Simon (5) got into the tractor cab with Simon was sitting on the small passenger seat in the tractor cab and James standing in front of Simon with his back to the nearside cab door.

A little into the journey Wallace started to slow the tractor down as they were approaching a junction. Wallace warned the boys that the road was going to get bumpy. At this point the tractor hit a bump in the road, the near-side tractor door flew open and James fell out. Wallace immediately stopped the tractor and got out.

He found James lying semi-conscious at the side of the road. Using his mobile Wallace phoned for an ambulance and while he was making the call another driver stopped to help. Wallace asked the driver to take him and his sons to the local medical centre where he was examined by two doctors. James was then taken by ambulance to Antrim Area Hospital and transferred to Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital later that afternoon.

James had sustained a double skull fracture during the incident and was kept under sedation in intensive care for 24 hours. He did not receive surgery for his injuries but remained in hospital for eight days.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending as James has made a full recovery and has returned to school – his condition is still being monitored to ensure that he has not suffered any long term effects. Wallace is keen to share his family’s traumatic experience and features in a powerful new farm accident survivor story video - now available on HSENI’s YouTube channel and at www.farminglife.com.

Farm Safety Foundation’s Stephanie Berkeley, added: “This is a story that many farmers across the UK and Ireland can empathise with. It is something that many farmers do and have done for centuries but Wallace would be the first to advise people to really think twice and use your common sense when dealing with children on the farm. People often believe that farm children understand farm risks, but most children who are hurt in farm incidents are family members. A few straightforward steps, and proper supervision of children, will reduce these risks.”

Commenting following Farm Safety Week 2016, Upper Bann MP David Simpson said: “Whether a life long experienced farmer, or simply a novice - the potential of a farming accident is open to us all. Farm safety week is a welcome initiative that reminds us of the huge dangers we face on farms yards, fields and country roads throughout the year.

“Whilst we are proud of the farming industry, it has brought tragic consequences to many families and local communities. I would call on farmers in Northern Ireland to look out for both themselves and all those who are dealing with the every day running of a farm.”