Farming remains Northern Ireland’s most dangerous industry according to HSENI annual report

27 October 2017

Author: Ben Johnston
Practice Area: Health and Safety

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The Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) recently published its 2016/17 Annual Report. The figures show a marked improvement in certain areas: major injuries during this period fell to a ten year low of 357, representing a decrease of 13% from the previous year; and reported ‘Over 3 day injuries’ also fell to a ten year low of 1680, representing a 2.7% reduction from the previous year.

Unfortunately, work-related fatalities rose to 18 in the 2016/17 period from 13 the previous year, with one third of these fatalities occurring on a farm. Indeed, farming has consistently had the highest or joint highest fatality rates in Northern Ireland for the past 10 years. Following the tragic accident on a farm in County Armagh in September, farming fatalities already total 6 so far for the 2017/18 period.

Farming accidents also account for a large proportion of non-fatal injuries. While the report does not breakdown the numbers of major injuries and over 3 day injuries according to each work sector, the Northern Ireland Farm Safety Partnership Survey 2015 suggested there could be as many as 100 incidents per month on farms which require hospital treatment.

Northern Ireland is not the only country in which farming is considered a high risk industry. The agricultural sector consistently ranks as one of the most hazardous or dangerous in terms of fatalities in England and Wales, Canada, Australia and the United States.

As well as the human cost of injury and death as a result of accidents on farms, health and safety failings may lead to criminal prosecution and ultimately a fine and/or prison sentence. In HSENI’s annual report, 1 of the 7 prosecutions completed during this period occurred following an accident on a farm in Portadown.

In an effort to address farming health and safety in Northern Ireland, the Farm Safety Partnership (FSP) was launched in May 2012 and consists of key stakeholders with an interest in farm safety (which include HSENI, the Ulster Farmers Union; NFU Mutual; the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs; the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association; and the Young Farmer’s Club of Ulster). The FSP recently produced their third Action Plan for the period 2017-2020, entitled ‘Sustainable Safety’. The Action Plan aims to build off previous, successful information campaigns such as the 2017 PANI Grand Prix award winning farm safety TV spot and the well regarded YouTube series, ‘Farm accident survivor stories’.

For more information on the FSP as well as the HSE’s guidance on health and safety in agriculture, please see the links below:

https://www.hseni.gov.uk/articles/farm-safety-partnership

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg270.htm

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