Safety campaign to visit 1,000 NI farms

Published Monday, 05 November 2012
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At least 1,000 farms in Northern Ireland are to be visited as part of a major safety initiative launched by the Health and Safety Executive.

Safety campaign to visit 1,000 NI farms
Simon Best gets a visit from HSENI. (© UTV)

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The initiative aims to address the increase in fatalities in Northern Ireland after 12 farmers died this year.

In total 24 people have died in just over 20 months in farms across Northern Ireland.

According to the HSENI, slurry related accidents accounts for 15% of deaths, while other causes include animals (27%), falls (27%) and equipments and vehicles (27%).

Last week, 76-year-old Jackie McCooey died in Dungannon in a fatal accident involving cattle feeding equipment.

In September three members of the Spence family, including 22-year-old Ulster player Nevin, died in a slurry tank accident at their farm in Hillsborough.

Since April 2007, 42 people in Northern Ireland have been killed as a direct result of agricultural activities. Many more have been seriously injured or made ill by work.

To launch the campaign, rugby players Rory and Simon Best hosted the first farm walk around at their Co Down farm with Malcolm Downey, head of HSENI's farm safety team.

I believe that farm safety visits along with one-to-one advice are vital tools in helping to limit the devastation caused by accidents.

Malcolm Downey, HSENI

"The number of tragedies that have occurred over the last five years aren't figures to be proud of. We're passionate about the agricultural industry and we want to help improve that," Simon told UTV.

"We feel it's important to try and address health and safety on our own farm and if we can get a message out there, improve our farm and improve the industry then that's all well and good."

Mr Downey offered advice on how to work safely, especially around dangerous areas.

"I want every farmer in Northern Ireland to talk openly to our teams and take on board our advice and guidance," he added.

"It is vital that those working in the farming sector familiarise themselves with the guidance and put it into practice.

"This increase in farm visits will help to drive those messages home. I would appeal to everyone, including family and friends to help get the safety message to farmers and farm workers to ensure that they are aware of the dangers involved."

The safety message is supported by organisations in The Farm Safety Partnership, which was established in May to address the poor record of health and safety within the agriculture industry.

Its members include the Ulster Farmers' Union, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, NFU Mutual and the Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster.

George Lucas, Chairman of the Farm Safety Partnership, said: "This initiative could not be more important. Within the last 10 days, I was deeply shocked to hear of yet another farm fatality - this time in Dungannon.

"For the sake of this hardworking man and his family, and all the farming community, let's pull together to ensure that this does not happen again."

UFU President Harry Sinclair said the farm visits, which will occur over the next five months, are an ideal opportunity for farm businesses to scrutinise the safety of their farm.

He said: "The UFU would like to re-iterate the need to make farm safety a priority and encourage farmers who receive a visit to actively and positively engage with HSENI with the aim of reducing, and hopefully bringing to a halt work related deaths on our farms."

The Farm Safety Partnership intends to publish its first action plan this month.

© UTV News
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