Its nearly a year ago now that I sat down to write one of my first editorials for That’s Farming. The subject was something we all know well farm safety. At times it can seem an almost flippant topic. A topic that we breeze over. I used to do the same until death knocked on my community’s door.
I’ll never forget the evening when the call came in. A local man Sean Reilly had died in a farm accident and then 24 hours later my grandmother passed. The community was in a double mourning at the death of one of its oldest members and one of its nicest farmers.
The mourners travelled to both the wake houses. Ours was a natural death, my grandmother was an old woman and her time had come. But Sean? Sean our neighbour was a middle aged man. A big fine man with many good years left in him. His death was not a natural thing, it was an abhorrent thing and the grief on his wife and children’s face was not that of saying goodbye to a dear old friend it was the agony of tragedy, of being torn apart from this mortal coil before ones time.
Time has moved on and his family have moved on as best they can. His sons now farm the land. The fields at least keep their names and the secret memories of that family.
Sean Reilly died in September 2016 there were nearly a dozen more deaths after him. Many were older men, men who wont read this editorial nor have access to a smart phone to see it. But they, they are the ones we need to reach.
I’m reminded of the elderly Kerry farmer who near Christmas last year. He drown in a river while out working and his body was later recovered. He was a bachelor and had worked alone. He died alone too and there’s a great tragedy in that.
When my grandmother passed the family were around here. I had called to see her on my way to work. There is something in being with our loved ones in the end something that so many of our farm death victims never get. Working alone, dying alone.
This year already we have had 14 farm deaths. That’s 14 families that will never be the same again. 14 tragedies. 14 lives that will miss the little things in life; christenings, confirmations, a great club match, a pint with friends.
This morning I heard Joe Healy speak on Radio 1 on the way to work on the subject of farm deaths urging us all as farmers to take a moment before we start into a job and just ask ourselves what could go wrong here. It’s a philosophy that’s not wrong. It’s a philosophy that could just save your life one day.
As young farmers we are inclined to dive right in balls to wall and get the job done but as machinery gets bigger, animals get handled less we need to pull back that little bit and think.
God gave us one of the greatest jobs in the world and you’re your own boss and can come and go as you please. As your own boss its your responsibility to take care of yourself. Taking that moment out to mind yourself could just end up saving your life and preventing a tragedy for your family.
Id love to think that Sean Reilly’s death changed things, that it marked a high tide mark for me that it was a moment that meant Id look at things and act differently on the farm. In many ways it did but it wasn’t the last death and after farm safety week there will be more too.
If you are reading this all I can say is to urge you to think safety. I’m talking about some man standing in front of you in the high vis vest or feeding the cattle wearing a hard hat. I’m talking about talking that one moment because a moment is all that it takes to die and the rest of us have a lifetime to reflect on what went wrong and how we should have been there.
For more information on farm safety see here.