A detailed 18 month plan of action to tackle farm safety in Northern Ireland has been launched by the Farm Safety Partnership.
The Farm Safety Partnership was set up in May this year specifically to address the alarming increase in the number of farmers who are dying or seriously injuring themselves as a result of work-related accidents.
Since then, a number of initiatives have been launched to counteract the situation.
The Farm Safety Action Plan for Northern Ireland, which was developed by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), National Farmers Union Mutual (NFUM) and the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU), sets out a clear strategy aimed at reducing injury and deaths in farming and includes details of specific goals and targets the partnership aims to achieve.
Launching the Action Plan, Health and Safety Minister Arlene Foster said: “Accidents resulting in serious injury or death continue to be a very real danger for farmers and agricultural workers across Northern Ireland.
“Too many families have had to suffer the unspeakable grief of losing a loved one as a result of a farming accident and I have seen at first hand the devastating effect it has on those who are left behind.
“Work-related deaths on our farms are not inevitable and most could be prevented by taking simple steps to improve safety.
“We need to urgently make sure farmers are doing everything they can to stay safe. The actions contained in the Farm Safety Partnership plan have been agreed by all of the key stakeholders, and work is already well under way to deliver them.”
Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill added: “Every death on our farms is a tragedy. It is a tragedy for society, for the industry, and for the community.
“But, infinitely more importantly, it is a tragedy for the family and my sympathies are with all of the farming families who have lost loved ones over the years.
“Therefore, it is vital that we look beyond the statistics and take steps to ensure that all avenues are explored and all appropriate actions taken to raise awareness within the farming community and prevent further fatalities.
“Over the past seven months I know that the Farm Safety Partnership has been working tirelessly to reduce and to ultimately eradicate fatalities on farms.
“It is also extremely re-assuring to know that the partnership is pushing on with its work, that it is keen to maintain momentum, and that it is striving to build on the sound foundations that have been laid over the last seven months.”
HSENI chairman, George Lucas said: “Individually and collectively, all the bodies which make up the Farm Safety Partnership have been working tirelessly to help raise awareness of the issues involved and ensure that the farm safety message to “Stop and think SAFE” continues to resonate among the farming community. This dedicated action plan will underline those efforts on a jointly-agreed basis and bring into sharp focus the immediate goals to be achieved.”
UFU president, Harry Sinclair said: “I would ask every farmer in Northern Ireland to support the Farm Safety Action Plan. The action plan will have the maximum impact if farmers adopt a mindset that safety is a priority issue for them every day on their farm.
“We all have a collective responsibility to make our industry much safer and the action plan is another positive initiative in this process.”