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Safety bosses vow to get tough on farmers over accidents in the workplace

By Richard Halleron ·

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Katherine Smart (5) from Loughgall

Safety officials are to get tough on farmers in a bid to reduce workplace accidents.

The warning came from Keith Morrison, the chief executive of the Health and Safety Executive (HSENI), at the Balmoral Show yesterday.

Seven farm-related fatalities took place here last year, with around 100 non-fatal accidents a month.

Mr Morrison said farmers can expect HSENI inspectors to be more focused on enforcement, as opposed to performing an education and awareness role.

Speaking on day one of this year's Show, Mr Morrison said every effort will be made to significantly reduce the number of life-changing accidents taking place on our farms.

He said: "Last year, a total of seven farm fatalities was recorded in Northern Ireland. The average for the past five years was six deaths per annum.

"However, we still have 100 farm accidents taking place each month, requiring medical attention of some form for those involved."

Mr Morrison said agriculture is treated no differently to other industrial sectors when it comes to the implementation of health and safety legislation.

"The key difference is that farmers actually live in their place-of-work," he said.

"We also recognise that farms are inherently dangerous places.

"Where agriculture is concerned we put in place a strategy that, initially, puts a strong focus on education and greater awareness of how accidents can be avoided.

"But we are now moving into a new phase of the campaign, one which will see inspectors implementing their powers of enforcement in a more direct manner."

HSE inspectors carry out 1,000 farm visits on an annual basis.

"Many of these are unannounced," said Mr Morrison.

"We are not picking on farmers. But it's important that we get a real sense of what is actually happening on the farm."

Mr Morrison recognises that older farmers are more predisposed to accidents, particularly when it comes to working with livestock. The most dangerous animal on a farm is a freshly calved cow.

"The reality is that older people are less able to get out of harm's way, in the event of an incident taking place," he added.

"They are also more likely to sustain serious injury.

"These are key issues that we are communicating to farm families at the present time."

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Katherine Smart (5) from Loughgall
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Sarah, Rachael and Richard with their sheep
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Matthew Robinson from Gleno Valley YFC competes in the novice class of the Sheep Shearing competition