Farming continues to be the most dangerous job in Ireland with tractors representing the biggest threat to life.
With the summer harvesting season well underway, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) warned farmers at Tullamore Show that children and the elderly are in the gravest danger.
The authority joined forces with the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána to reissue a safety advice leaflet to farmers at the annual agricultural event in Offaly.
While farms are homes as well as workplaces, the HSA is highlighting the risks on the farm, particularly for elderly people and children.
Of the 61 people who died in tractor deaths in the last decade, 28 were aged 65 or over. In the same period, from 2009 to 2018, six children were killed in tractor incidents.
So far, five people have died this year in tractor or vehicle-related farm deaths, with the majority aged over 65.
'It could save a life on your farm today'
HSA Chief Executive Dr Sharon McGuinness said: “Far too many of our older and younger generations are being killed by tractors.”
“As farmers age, chances multiply that they will be killed or seriously injured while working as physical tasks become tougher than they used to be.”
She believes that measures should also be taken to ensure children do not play on or near tractors, where the driver may not see them in a blind spot.
“The message has generally got through about the dangers of PTOs but now we need to get the message across about how lethal tractors can be.”
As the fatality rate in agriculture is far higher than any other economic sector, Dr McGuinness urged all drivers to read the Essential Tractor Safety Checks leaflet before setting foot on their tractor.
“For the sake of a few minutes, I would appeal to farmers to put this leaflet near their vehicle and to carry out this simple checklist before starting their engines - it could save a life on your farm today.”
Expect the unexpected
Advising drivers, Ms Moyagh Murdock, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority, said, “It really is a busy time for farmers, and we need to be on guard for farm machinery on the road.”
“If you do find yourself stuck behind a tractor, be patient and only overtake when it’s safe to do so.
“We really need to be on the look-out for farm machinery exiting from fields and farmyards too - expect the unexpected.
“Of course, safety cuts both ways and farmers are covered by road traffic laws on driver licensing, insurance, vehicle roadworthiness, lighting and motor tax just like other drivers.
Murdock stressed that farmers need to be safety-conscious whenever bringing a farm vehicle onto the public road.
“While farmers have a job to do, they need to think about other road users too.”
“If the traffic is building up behind, keep left where possible to allow it pass safely.”
Regular safety checks
Superintendent Eddie Golden, Roads Policing, said, “The introduction of the revised regulations for agricultural vehicles in 2016 focused on a number of key safety areas which included braking, suspension systems, tyres and lights, weights, dimensions and coupling.
“The majority of correctly maintained tractors/machinery already in use comply with the new standards; constant maintenance is necessary to maintain these standards.
“Regular safety checks are essential and An Garda Síochána is asking all owners of agricultural machinery to play their part in keeping everyone safe both on and off the road,” he concluded.
The safety leaflet from the HSA, the RSA and An Garda Síochána provides practical advice on how to reduce risk with tractors, including:
- Use the flashing amber beacon at all times in accordance with new lighting and visibility laws;
- Keep tractor windows and mirrors clean to allow an unobscured view;
- Keep tractors in good serviceable and roadworthy condition;
- Keep steering systems and all brakes working correctly;
- Apply the handbrake before leaving the cab, remove the key from engine and dismount facing the tractor.
To download the Essential Tractor Safety Checks poster, visit the HSA website here.