Northern Ireland

100 accidents on NI farms each month, says safety body

A tractor on its side in a ditch Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Work accidents are the greatest risk farmers face, says the Ulster Farmers' Union

About 100 accidents resulting in medical treatment happen on Northern Ireland farms each month, the Farm Safety Partnership has said.

The safety promotion body revealed the figure as it published its new action plan, aimed at reducing the numbers of injuries and deaths on farms.

It comes just days after a well-known cattle breeder was killed in County Armagh in an incident involving a cow.

Six people have been killed on farms in Northern Ireland so far this year.

That is the same number of deaths for the whole of 2016.

Agriculture remains one of the most hazardous industries to work in.

'Focus on help'

The Farm Safety Partnership is made up of government, industry and farming representatives.

Keith Morrison, the partnership's chairman, said it had been a tough year for those working to prevent farm accidents.

Image copyright Michael Cooper
Image caption Barclay Bell, Keith Morrison and James Chapman say farmers must be aware of danger

He hopes, however, that the action plan will provide guidance for the farming industry.

"There is lots of practical help to try and prevent accidents," he said.

"Things like training on how to use machinery and handling animals; visual guides to show people the safe way to do things; using the grant schemes and discussion groups to talk about safety.

"But, at 100 incidents a month, we also need to focus on helping farmers deal with incidents on farms to allow time for the emergency services to get there.

"Things like first aid and helping the emergency services locate an incident, which can be difficult in rural areas.

"All those minutes are important when it comes to saving lives."

'Big challenge ahead'

While a death on a farm makes the headlines, there are many accidents that do not.

Image caption Farming is one of the most hazardous industries in which to work in Northern Ireland

James Chapman, a farm manager from England, lost his arm in an accident while working with a power take-off shaft when he was 23.

He said farm accidents can have lifelong repercussions but people do not think they will happen to them.

"What happened to me is not uncommon - these accidents are the same accidents happening over and over again," he said.

"But, as an industry and as individual farmers, we are not learning, because we assume these things happen to other people.

"People need to realise it could be you."

Barclay Bell, the president of the Ulster Farmers' Union, said there is "still a big challenge ahead" in changing farmers' attitudes to safety at work.

"We all know there are many pressures on farmers, not least prices and the weather," he added.

"But the greatest threat to any farming business is an accident that leaves a family member unable to work or worse."

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