Farm safety in focus

WITH the recent deaths of three former Dromore High School pupils still sending aftershocks, local Councillor Paul Rankin was this week among those to welcome news of a targeted campaign of farm safety visits in the district.

It was on the family farm at Drumlough that 22-year-old Nevin Spence died alongside his father Noel (58) and brother Graham (30) in a slurry pit accident on September 15 this year. Just nine miles away, and three months earlier, father of two, William McMillan, died, it is believed, after falling into a slurry pit at Redhill Road, Dromore.

Now, backed by the local branch of the Ulster Farmers’ Union and the Farm Safety Partnership, Banbridge District Council is helping the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland carry out farm safety visits in an attempt to address the increase in farm fatalities currently affecting the industry. “Both (Lagan Valley MLA) Mrs. Brenda Hale and I welcome this initiative,” said Mr. Rankin. “Any steps to heighten farm safety awareness issues must be encouraged. No-one wants to see a repeat of recent tragic accidents and the farming community must be encouraged to take every necessary step to increase safety on their farms.”

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UFU Deputy President and Rathfriland farmer Barclay Bell said, “The advisory farm safety visits from the team are an ideal opportunity for farm businesses to scrutinise the safety of their farm.

“The teams of two (HSENI and Council Environmental Health officers working together) will visit local farms in an attempt to highlight any dangers and provide practical assistance to help improve safety around the farm. The UFU would like to re-iterate the need to make farm safety a priority and encourage farmers who receive a visit to actively and positively engage with HSENI with the aim of reducing, and hopefully bringing to a halt, work-related deaths on our farms.”

Banbridge Council Chairman, Councillor Junior McCrum also encouraged farmers to see theinitiative as an opportunity to improve safety.

“During a difficult time for agriculture we want to do what we can to help prevent the terrible tragedies that we unfortunately have been familiar with in our area,” he said. The teams will be looking at the four main causes of farm fatalities as represented by the theme ‘SAFE’ (Slurry Animals Falls Equipment).

Their checklist includes: Slurry-storage and mixing - Are all children and all animals kept out of the area? Are all doors and windows open? Are tank openings properly covered? Remember! Start the mixer and stay out of the building for as long as possible, at least 30 minutes.

Animals - work with livestock: Are there proper cattle handling facilities which are regularly maintained? Is there a properly designed bull pen (for dairy breed bulls)? Are gates and fences regularly checked and maintained? Can I use a vehicle (to act as a refuge) when checking grazing livestock? Remember! All bulls and any female animal with young are potentially dangerous.

Falls - work at heights around the farm: Have I got the right equipment for the job? Can I access the area safely?

Are ladders securely footed and tied? Remember! Don’t go onto a fragile or corroded roof; you can fall through as well as off the roof.

Equipment- Is it safe and ready for use: Are all guards in place, in good condition and regularly maintained? Do the PTO shaft guards cover the whole shaft? Are brakes and steering in good repair? Are mirrors clean and in place to ensure all round visibility? Remember! Some machines have more than one source of power – isolate any electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic systems before working on the machine.