At the launch of last year’s Farm Safety Week, Keith Morrison, Chief Executive of HSENI, said that “while our farmers are among the best in the world, farming has one of the poorest records of any occupation in the UK and Ireland, and while all farm accidents are shocking and dreadfully sad, the saddest thing is that they can often be prevented.”
That’s a very stark and sobering assessment, but one which is borne out by statistics – c.130 work-related fatalities on local farms in the past decade.
Government and stakeholders have acknowledged the scale of problem, launching a series of very welcome initiatives such as the ‘SAFE’ campaign to highlight the four areas where farmers are most at risk – Slurry, Animals, Falls and Equipment.
Sadly, as one of Northern Ireland’s leading insurance brokers with an extensive and growing agriculture business, we see too many instances of claims arising from such accidents - many of which could have been avoided.
As the figures testify, farming can be a dangerous occupation, but many accidents wouldn’t have occurred if a little bit of time had been taken to think about potential dangers or to consider whether there was a better way to complete the job at hand.
It’s not easy. We understand that the public’s imagination of what it means to be a farmer is a far cry from the busy and often stressful experience of modern-day farmers. It can be hard to give safety the priority it requires when other deadlines and pressures also have to be managed.
When weather conditions improve there are narrow windows of opportunity to get jobs done as quickly as possible. Additional part time help can be required to cope with the work load and unfortunately accidents can happen.
At Autoline, we specialise in providing bespoke insurance solutions for our farming customers and can provide protection for liability arising from the public or employees including voluntary helpers.
But – and it’s an important but – the very first place to start is to stop accidents occurring in the first place.
Getting into the habit of pausing before a seemingly routine job to think what the dangers are might not come easily to most of us.
For farmers though, that extra minute could save your life.