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Minister Coveney Opens National Farm Safety Conference

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today opened the National Farm Safety Conference, at the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon, jointly organised by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and Teagasc and sponsored by FBD. This year's conference addresses changing the culture of health and safety in agriculture, enhancing the health of farmers and livestock related injuries.

Minister Coveney acknowledged the important role played by the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee and the importance of the Farm Safety Action Plan 2009-2012. He advised farmers to be extremely vigilant at this time and over the coming weeks and months when school children are more likely to be playing on farms and young people are more likely to be around tractors and other farm machinery.

"I have a strong personal interest in farm safety and I am saddened that 26 people lost their lives on Irish farms during 2010 and that 3 of those deaths were of children. The resulting grief and devastation of their families, their friends and their communities is immeasurable. It's further upsetting to learn that eight farm fatalities have already been recorded for 2011."

Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in Ireland with farm deaths accounting for more than half of all workplace fatalities in 2010. The basic modern farm machine, the tractor, accounts for the highest proportion of fatalities and accidents on farms each year. Livestock, and in particular bulls, come next, followed by falls and drowning accidents. The dairy sector has consistently seen the highest number of farm fatalities out of all the farming enterprises.

The Minister stated that, "Because we know this information on these critical safety areas, there is a clear opportunity for farmers to target their farm management and reduce these dangers and in so doing save farm lives."

The Minister acknowledged that a bid to save farm lives must be farmer led. In this context, he praised all the organisers and the sponsors for a timely event on farm safety. He said, "In order to save lives on farms, all farmers must change their way of thinking about farm safety. I would urge all farmers to talk about farm safety at every opportunity - at the mart, at the match, in the pub, around the dinner table.  By continuously talking about and being aware of farm safety we can together bring about a change of culture and farmer thinking."

Unfortunately, there are also about 1500 farm accidents reported each year and the resulting injuries from these accidents vary from minor injuries to severe cases where the person is left with a permanent injury. That is the equivalent of 4 farming accidents each day of the year.

Farm safety training is a key element in empowering farmers to reduce dangers on farms and to save lives. However, the training challenge is to reach those farmers who are weak on farm safety and for one reason or another find it more difficult to engage with discussion and training. To help overcome this challenge the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has prioritised appropriate health and safety aspects in its farm buildings specifications, has included farm safety elements in REPS training courses and in the Dairy Efficiency Programme. Farm safety is also highlighted in the 'most popular' section of the Department's website.

Over the coming decade, the agriculture sector will be striving to achieve the growth targets of Food Harvest 2020 and is identified as a key sector in leading Ireland out of recession. The Minister said that, "Increased growth in agriculture means increased activities on farms and an absolute and critical need for farmers to put farm safety at the heart of those actions."

Date Released: 22 June 2011