Farm safety No 1 concern for UFU

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union says farm safety remains a prime concern and work to encourage farmers to make their own health and wellbeing a priority when working on-farm is ongoing.

The comments were made following the publication of the Annual Report by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI).

The report showed fatal injuries increased by one in the workplace and sadly the majority of deaths in working environments in NI, are due to agricultural related accidents.

Seven people lost their lives in 2018-19 as a result of a farm accident.

UFU deputy president Victor Chestnutt said: “It is a heart-breaking reality that seven people lost their lives in Northern Ireland last year due to serious on-farm accidents, having a devastating impact on their families, friends and local communities.

“With lengthy to-do lists pressurised by numerous factors such as time constraints and weather, combined with their hardworking nature and commendable dedication to their job, farmers can put their own safety at risk without realising it just to get the task done,” he added.

“The UFU cannot stress enough how important it is for farmers to stop and think about what they’re doing because when working with slurry, unpredictable livestock and high-powered technology, it only takes a spilt second for a life changing injury or fatality to happen. Too many farmers have experienced ‘near misses’ and we are encouraging them to change the way they think about these close calls which are only a moment away from a fatal accident happening.”

The loss of life due to farm related activities remains the same as the previous year. The UFU is committed to promoting farm safety so farmers across NI put their own safety above all else.

Victor Chesnutt further commented: “The HSENI report shows that continued effort is needed to ensure a long term and sustainable reduction in fatal accidents related to agricultural activities. The UFU is active members of the Northern Ireland Farm Safety Partnership and will continue to actively work with other key stakeholder organisations through the Farm Safety Partnership in order to reduce the number of serious incidents occurring on Northern Ireland farms.”

He concluded: “Any death is one too many and I strongly urge all farmers and farm workers, to view their safety with the greatest importance and make it a priority every day.”

The HSENI report confirms a significant decrease in major injuries; down by 28% in 2018/19 to 325. The previous year saw 453 incidents recorded.

Fatal injuries during 2018/19 increased to 12 compared to 11 in 2017/18. Of the 12 fatal injuries, seven occurred in agriculture, three in construction, one in manufacturing and one in the local authority sector.

Derek Martin, Chairperson of HSENI stated: “I am encouraged that the major injury numbers have dropped by 28% on last year as we know these injuries often have devastating life-changing outcomes for workers. The number of workplace deaths is disappointing. We will continue to collaborate with our partners and

industry bodies to ensure the focus remains on ensuring the safety and health of workers. I am extremely supportive of the work we have carried out in the field of occupational health and hygiene. We will continue to raise awareness of issues in the workplace which we know are associated with chronic ill-health.”

HSENI Chief Executive Robert Kidd said:  “It has been a very busy and challenging year for HSENI. We are reporting on the first year of our draft corporate plan. Excellent progress has been made in areas such as workplace health and this will continue as a central theme in our work as we know the high costs to

individuals, organisations and the economy of not getting this right.

“The Farm Safety Partnership remains the vehicle through which HSENI and its partners and affiliates will continue to work together to improve farm safety. The number of fatalities in this sector remains a concern and we need to redouble our efforts to assist the industry to reduce this number.”