Northern Ireland

Farm deaths campaign has huge response in Ireland

A graphic media campaign aimed at saving lives on farms has provoked a huge reaction in the Republic of Ireland.

The Health and Safety Authority is behind the hard-hitting campaign, following the deaths of 22 people in farm accidents there last year.

Pictures of a man who lost part of his arm in a farm accident have been published in newspapers.

On radio, emotive audio outlines how a farmer can die in a tractor accident.

In Northern Ireland, 23 people have died in farming accidents since January 2011.

Earlier this month, three members of the Spence family lost their lives in a slurry accident at their farm in Hillsborough, County Down.

"We are aware of the hard-hitting campaign in the Republic of Ireland and believe it will make farmers stop and reflect on their own safety on the farm," Ulster Farmers Unions president Harry Sinclair said.

"We hope in the future to do much more in Northern Ireland on farm safety.

"There is a real desire for the Farm Safety Partnership to maximise the awareness of farm safety within the farming community."

Gavin Lonergan of the Irish Health and Safety Authority said farms were the "most dangerous workplaces" in Ireland.

"Someone loses their life on an Irish farm every two weeks," he said. "This is completely unacceptable.

"The campaign is stark and graphic and doesn't pull any punches. It is very deliberately so. We could have gone for a softly, softly approach and most people would not have seen it or heard it.

"This one is emotional and gory but also realistic. Hopefully farmers will see and hear it and think about the way they work."

Thousands of injuries also occur on farms each year which can lead to a farmer losing a limb or a finger.

The radio campaign focuses on a tractor's PTO, or power take-off, which enables machinery to take power from the tractor's engine. Special guards can be purchased for the outside of the shaft which act as a protection.

However, often these get broken and do not get replaced.

"If a farmer is at the back of a tractor, a thread from his jumper can get caught in the PTO which spins at a massive speed. An arm can be taken off in seconds. So a PTO guard is very important." said Mr Lonergan.

"We are trying to get farmers to get into a safety mindset, that they apply to everything they are doing."

He said the campaign, which first ran out earlier this year, had an overwhelmingly positive response.

"The sounds on the radio advertisement are not exaggerated. Farmers themselves realise that. But often there is the mindset that it will 'never happen to me'. Nobody goes out to get themselves killed or their arm ripped off."

Sally Ann O'Donovan from the advertising agency behind the campaign said the campaign was being launched again now because of the current Ploughing Championships in Wexford.

"There are about 200,000 people attending these championships so that's the reason for the timing," she said.

"There was a lot of reaction, from farmers' bodies, among others, the first time we ran out the campaign. The ad was also picked up by a Japanese newspaper as a demonstration of a campaign that is hard-hitting.

"There was some negative reaction to the campaign, but weighing up the positives and the negatives the Health Service Authority felt there was definitely a need for something hard hitting."

A spokesperson for the Health and Safety Executive NI told the BBC they are considering their own campaign.

"An advertising campaign is being considered but will require robust market research to ensure that it is designed to effectively reach the target audience. From next week, HSENI, in conjunction with its farm safety partnership partners, will be increasing the focus on farm safety.

"This will include safety visits, promotion and advice on the main issues in farm safety, namely working with slurry, animals, falls from heights and equipment."