The Ulster Farmers’ Union along with other organisations from the farming sector came together this week in a bid to highlight the importance of farm safety and to cut the toll of accidents that is currently dubbing agriculture with the poorest record of any occupation in the UK and Ireland.
‘Farm Safety Week’ an awareness raising campaign now in its fifth year is supported by the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health and Safety Executive, Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health and Safety Authority, Ireland.
The campaign which was run from the 24th July 2017 to the 28th July 2017 was set out to educate the farming community on the common dangers faced on farms and the UFU was active on social media, in the press and at the local shows in raising an awareness of the importance of safety on farms.
The key themes over the five day period were as follows:
Machinery & Transport:
Poorly used or faulty vehicles and machinery are a major cause of death and injury on farms. Farmers come into contact with a host of machinery daily - combines, choppers and hay balers which bring their own attendant dangers. Hands, hair and clothing can be caught by unguarded PTO shafts or other unguarded moving parts such as pulleys and belts. People can be injured by front-end loaders, falling from a moving tractor or being struck by its wheels.
Modern farm machinery present many dangers if they are not kept in a good condition, and while they allow farmers to work more quickly and efficiently, safety issues must be adhered to when carrying out necessary repairs. Farmers are again being reminded of the risks involved in the maintenance of machinery, including tractors, and are encouraged to take the appropriate steps before engaging in any repair work.
The correct equipment must always be used for the job; this includes wheel chocks and a trolley jack or suitable props. Farmers should also consider employing a competent mechanic to carry out repairs.
UFU president Barclay Bell stressed that any fall from height can lead to long term injuries and makes it difficult to keep on farming.
Most accidents of this type happen either because the work is not properly planned, the risks are not recognised, proper precautions are not taken, or the equipment used is either defective, not appropriate, or used incorrectly. Whilst working at heights is always a risky business, there are several things which can be done to minimise those risks.
The following is a checklist to help prevent falls from heights:
l Have I thought about the best way to get up to the job?
l Can I use a cherry-picker or a materials handler (including a fork lift)?
l Do I have a suitable cage or platform attached to the machine?
l Have I done everything I can to avoid using a ladder?
l Is the ladder in good condition, rungs and stiles sound?
l Is it long enough, reaches to at least 0.9m above the stepping off point?
l Can it be tied or footed?
l Is the roof material fragile eg asbestos cement sheet?
l Have I got crawling boards or staging to cover the asbestos cement by bridging the joists?
l Can I avoid stepping on the roof-lights?
Livestock & Slurry
Many farmers never stop to consider why animals behave as they do and, more importantly, what this behaviour could mean to their personal safety.
Animal-handling practices are often learned from watching others and from personal experiences growing up on the farm. Too often, this results in unsafe livestock handling and restraint practices. Thankfully most animal incidents are not fatal but too many men, women and children are needlessly injured every year due to a lack of safety awareness. Broken bones, crushed and mashed limbs, work absences and unnecessary medical expenses are some of the results of livestock-related incidents.
Working safely with livestock involves much more than being “careful” around recently calved cows or cantankerous bulls. In fact, many livestock accidents are not directly related to the animals themselves but caused by improper use of equipment or poorly maintained or poorly built facilities.
Often farmers don’t make adjustments or modify equipment to make it safer because they are in a hurry or because they think they can just ‘make do’ for economic reasons but farm safety is a lifestyle, not a slogan so take the necessary steps to ensure you are safe while working with livestock.
Child Safety on Farms
Child safety on farms is a high priority for all key stakeholders involved in farm safety. The Farm Safety Partnership used Farm Safety Week to promote its Farm Secure App - aimed at teaching children how to become safer around the farmyard. This app was developed by the students at the University of Ulster’s School of Nursing, and has been sponsored by the Farm Safety Partnership. Children can download the app from the App store, where they can take a quiz on farm safety, compare their scores with others on the leader-board, and watch a number of farm safety videos on issues such as slurry, machinery, farm animals and bugs and germs.
Further information can also be obtained from the HSENI You Tube page, where children can find various Key Stage 1 videos entitled ‘Dangerous Playgrounds’ and a Key Stage 2 video entitled ‘Farm Safe’, which will provide more advice and guidance on the farmyard for the various age groups.