Today (Monday, July 19) marks the ninth annual Farm Safety Week in Ireland and the UK, an initiative led by the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) and by Yellow Wellies UK.

The message for this year is: Rethink Safety, which aims to encourage a deeper awareness of everyday risks on farms and the practical steps needed to reduce risk.

Farm Safety Week (FSW) is supported by several agencies, including the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee members.

Importance of farm safety

This year’s Farm Safety Week features video testimonial from farm accident survivor Eileen O’Driscoll in west Cork and the impact on her life.

Eileen farms with her husband Padraig in Skibbereen and suffered a livestock-related injury in 2015.

Her accident happened on Mother’s Day of that year, when Eileen and her husband were checking their suckler herd.

She suffered multiple fractures and needed to be airlifted to Cork University Hospital by the Toe Head and Glandore Coastguard.

Her farm accident impacted her B&B business significantly, and she required months of intensive rehabilitation.

The video also features first responders who discuss the challenge of coming to the aid of somebody who has had an accident.

Farming calendar

IFA president Tim Cullinan said Farm Safety Week is an important part of the annual calendar. It focuses on how farm families can continually improve their approach to farm safety.

“The messages from this week should be carried forward by everybody working on farms, to keep themselves safe.

The impact of Covid-19 on people’s mental well-being cannot be underestimated. We would encourage everybody to seek support and resources to maintain a resilient and positive approach to their work."

Patricia Murray, senior psychologist with the HSA, has highlighted the warning signs and what we can all do to make a positive difference to our mental well-being.

“Now more than ever, the stress of juggling many different tasks, rushing to meet deadlines and working in isolation are challenging most of us," she explained.

When we’re stressed or tired, we don’t pay attention to details. We make more mistakes, which can have devastating consequences.

“Take short breaks regularly, even for five minutes, build enjoyment into the working day to alleviate the build-up of stress.

"Get support and help from local networks and plan for activities you find stressful to reduce the risk. Reframing a dreaded task by imagining how someone else might do it can often help," she said.

Review working practices on farm

FBD risk manager Ciarán Roche said now is the time to challenge ourselves to work more safely and stop taking risks.

Time is a precious commodity on farms, but it’s vital that farmers do take the time to review working practices and ask if there are any practical safety measures they could implement to make the farm a safer place.

“This Farm Safety Week, we urge farmers to take time to assess their working environment, equipment and practices, and to put control measures in place to eliminate unnecessary risks,” Roche said.