Statistics revealed at the Teagasc BeSafe National Farm Safety Conference today (Wednesday, November 23) suggest men are five times more likely to die in farm-related accidents than women.

Dr Claire Jack, principal research economist with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in Northern Ireland, shared latest research from the institute with delegates at the conference on farm fatality statistics.

Highlighting the discrepancy between male and female on farm fatalities, Jack said it was “probably quite reflective, as we know, of the industry and the structure of the industry.

“When you look at the trends of the males for the past 50 years, we have had a downward trend, well for the first 30 years anyway.”

The AFBI principal research economist also stressed that researching and compiling “sensitive data” is needed to raise awareness about the most common causes of fatalities and accidents on farms.

According to AFBI the main causes of fatalities on farms are:

  • Machinery/equipment;
  • Livestock;
  • Falls;
  • Other causes.

“Vehicles and machinery is on the decline but it is still the main cause of accidents. Then, looking at the others, there is a persistence with falls,” Jack said.

“But, animals is on the rise. Accidents involving livestock are on the rise.

“Other causes including electrocution, drowning and accidental poisonings; they are on the increase.”

Near miss and close calls

In terms of age, research suggests that fatalities were more common amongst children, young farmers and older farmers.

Lack of experience and awareness was highlighted as the cause of high fatality rates among children and young farmers, and the “imbalance of workload intensity for age” was linked to severe accidents or fatalities among older farmers.

Middle-aged farmers were more likely to experience a “near miss” or “close call” rather than fatal incidents, according to Jack.

The research – supported by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the Health and Safety Executive of Northern Ireland (HSENI) -also concluded that accidents and fatalities were more likely to occur on dairy farms than any other type of farm.

Jack said that this may be because there the “more intense the level of farming activities, the greater likelihood of accidents occurring”.

Family farming practices

According to figures from DAERA, there are around 26,000 farms in Northern Ireland, compared with 137,500 in the Republic of Ireland, according to Teagasc.

Jack said that, when taking these figures into account, the concentration of farm fatalities in NI was abnormal, and was only a few numbers off from the south of the country each year.

She believes this shows more training and education is needed for farmers in Northern Ireland on farm safety.

“It’s about also looking at what are good practices (on farms),” she said.

“There are a lot of intergenerational bad practices passed down in families.”

Jack told delegates at today’s BeSafe conference that cultural change through the generations is needed to instill good farming practices in the coming generations of farmers.