Sixteen people have lost their lives in farming accidents on the island of Ireland so far this year, including three children.
Almost 90% of these accidents have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The issue of farm safety is being highlighted by ministers from both the Republic and Northern Ireland. They are calling on all those involved in agriculture to play their part and reduce the risk of incidents on farms.
The ministers involved are the Minster for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed and the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, along with their Northern Ireland counterparts, the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots, and the Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds.
"This year, there have been 16 fatal incidents on farms on the island of Ireland, with 13 fatal incidents in Ireland and three fatal incidents in Northern Ireland. The majority of these accidents have occurred during the COVID-19 restrictions and in particular, it is sad to see the number of children and older people that have died on our farms in recent weeks," the ministers said.
Nine of the people who have died this year have been over the age of 65.
The ministers pointed out that there has been a "remarkable level" of public awareness across both jurisdictions of the need to flatten the COVID-19 curve. As a result, practises such as physical distancing, coughing etiquette and hand sanitising have become the norm.
The ministers insisted that a similar and immediate effort is needed in relation to farm safety.
Research shows that farmers and contractors are generally aware of the risks, but often do not adhere to safety rules or take specific steps to ensure that the work they are engaged in can be done safely.
The ministers are appealing to farmers and those working on farms to take time to think about safety every morning before they go out into the yard. Farmers should always plan their work and take a moment to stop and think:
-How am I going to do this job safely?
-Do I have everything I need?
-Are there other people or hazards (machinery, obstructions, livestock) in the area I am working in?
The ministers said that this approach does not cost anything and only takes a few moments, but it does require conscious reflection on farm safety every single day, and before every single job is tackled.
They pointed out that there are additional risks at the moment, with farmers and contractors working with animals, making silage and spreading fertiliser and slurry. As well as this, many farms may have children at home from school, so everyone needs to be particularly vigilant.
The ministers noted that following on from the good weather in May, there may be an increased risk when it comes to working with slurry. The good weather has the potential to cause greater levels than usual of gasses to be released from slurry during agitation.
"We remind all farmers and contractors that just one lungful of slurry gas can kill. So take great care when working with slurry and always follow the published advice," they said.
The ministers emphasised that farming is a vital part of the structure and economy throughout Ireland, and farmers continue to work long hours to produce essential foods. However simple, basic precautions can reduce risks and prevent future accidents, they added.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.