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Farmers warned: Take care - stay safe at work

Published 03/01/2013

Bimpe Archer

FARMERS have been warned to take care of their safety after their profession was confirmed as the most dangerous in Northern Ireland - with three quarters of all workplace fatalities taking place on farms.

Twelve people died in farming accidents last year - 75 per cent of the total number killed in workplace accidents in 2012.

This is same number who lost their lives on farms in 2011, despite a high-profile advertising campaign aimed at warning those working on the land about the risks they face.

Overall, workplace accidents accounted for 16 of the deaths recorded last year.

On top of the agricultural tragedies, three people died in manufacturing accidents and one on a construction site.

Among those was 24-year-old Fermanagh midfielder Brian Og Maguire, left, who was killed in September in an industrial accident in a Derrylin factory formerly owned by the Quinn Group.

In the same month 54-year-old Peter Lennon died after an accident at Diamond & Son timber yard in Coleraine, Co Derry.

In Northern Ireland you are now more likely to be killed at your work than be murdered, with the number of people suffering violent deaths falling to 13.

Last year the Health and Safety Executive launched its 'Help' initiative targeting farmers and their workers in a bid to get the safety message out to the farming community.

It focused particularly on older farmers who were warned that they needed to be more careful in their approach to work and do "proper risk assessments".

"The familiarity of a task can mean you don't realise you are slowing up and can't complete it the same way," Ken Logan, HSE acting deputy chief executive, said.

The failure to reduce the number of farm fatalities led to a second initiative being launched in November 2012.

The 'Farm Safety Action Plan for Northern Ireland' sets out a "clear strategy aimed at reducing injury and deaths in farming and includes details of specific goals and targets the partnership aims to achieve", a HSE spokesman said yesterday.

The Farm Safety Partnership which is leading the initiative is made up of HSE, the Department of Agriculture, the Ulster Farmers' Union, National Farmers Union Mutual, the Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association.

The deaths of 22-year-old Ulster rugby star Nevin Spence, his father Noel (58) and brother Graham (30) at their family farm in Hillsborough in September highlighted the dangers.

The men died in a slurry tank, when they were over-come by noxious fumes, after a failed attempt to rescue a dog which had fallen in.

Their deaths came just three months after father-of-two William McMillan also lost his life after falling into a slurry tank while working on his farm near Dromore, Co Down.

The experienced farmer was working with his teenage son when he fell into the tank. ■ DEATHS: Emergency services at the farm in Hillsborough, Co Down, in September where, right, from top, Ulster rugby player Nevin Spence (22), his father Noel (58) and brother Graham (30) died in a slurry tank