Approximately 200 farm inspections are set to take place as part of a two-week long campaign, with a special focus on safe working with vehicles and machinery.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will begin the intensive farm inspection campaign on Tuesday, May 8.

Farm vehicles and machinery are the main cause of serious and fatal accidents on Irish farms, the HSA explained.

Over the last 10 years, half of all fatal farm accidents involved vehicles (30%) and machinery (20%).

Farm vehicles are generally defined as tractors or quad bikes. In recent years there has been a sharp increase in the number of fatalities involving quad bikes, with 12 reported in the past 10 years - four of these were recorded in 2017, the HSA added.

A statement from the HSA outlined that most accidents with farm vehicles or machinery will involve at least one of the following: poor planning; operator error; lack of training; and inadequate maintenance of vehicles or machines.

The key message during this campaign is that preparation is the key to working safely, particularly during busy periods such as the silage season. This involves looking at the suitability of operators, the machinery and how the work is to be done, the authority outlined.

On a practical level, the HSA is asking farmers to consider the following:

  • Are handbrakes or parking brakes working on all tractors and machinery?
  • Are cabs and doors maintained in working order?
  • Are tractor mirrors set and maintained correctly (not cracked or twisted)?
  • Has the driver ever received formal driver training for tractor or quad bike use?

Good planning and control can prevent serious accidents and fatalities from occurring, Pat Griffin - a senior inspector with the HSA - has said.

“All farmers should organise their work in a way that is efficient and safe. This means having rules in place in relation to who uses which vehicle or machine, establishing one-way systems, safe routes within fields and in and out of gates, care when reversing and who is in overall charge of the work.

"The person in overall charge must be realistic about how much work can be done and how many hours operators can safely work.”