A man who lost his leg in a farm accident has called for better safety in Ireland’s agriculture sector, at a rcent event, in Dundrum. Peter Gohery was one of the speakers at ‘Cultivating a safer future in rural Ireland’, which was hosted by the Rural Industries Section of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Ireland Branch, near Cashel, Co. Tipperary. Bringing together farmers, health and safety professionals and industry stakeholders, it shared good practice techniques that could turn the tide on the death toll in the country’s most statistically dangerous sector. The event is particularly salient, as it follows consistently worrying figures for the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, which has seen almost 120 work-related deaths in the last five years.
Peter Gohery, who was rushed to hospital in 2009 after an accident with the power take-off (PTO) on his diet feeder, said: “I lost my left leg above the knee and my right was also badly damaged to the point of nearly losing that too. It was absolutely devastating, as I knew it would ruin my career and change my life. I count myself lucky that my son, who was 10 at the time, was with me, as he called the ambulance straight away.
“I was just carrying out maintenance work for the coming year on the equipment, but there was a problem at the back, so I went round. The PTO was only ticking over but I got caught and when I looked down my leg was gone. You can’t imagine it’d cause that much harm, that quickly and at that speed.”
Rural Industries Section chair Michael Cusack said: “We’re very concerned about the high numbers of fatalities and serious injuries on our farms and at IOSH, we believe we have a central role to play in putting health and safety firmly on the agenda.
“Sadly, Peter isn’t a one-off – his story is all too familiar across Ireland and the saddest thing is that these accidents are altogether avoidable if farmers take some really quite simple measures to improve protection. We want to play a role in working with stakeholders across our agricultural industry in Ireland, to help them sow the seed of better safety. It is through the provision of more education and resources that we can get the message through that health and safety isn’t an option, it’s a necessary addition that protects lives and livelihoods.”
While giving information on farm machinery safety, power take-off safety and using quad bikes properly, the IOSH event also raised awareness of some less well-known hazards, such as Lyme disease.
Meanwhile, Teagasc national health and safety officer John McNamara gave a view on how the Farm Safety Code of Practice has been adopted by farmers since its release in 2006. Teagasc has recently renewed its Initiative to work with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the Farm Safety Partnership, to implement the Code at farm level.
In Mr McNamara’s report evaluating take-up of the Code to-date, 55 per cent of farmers have completed the Code of Practice Risk Assessment, with 22 per cent having done the training that goes with the guidance.
He said: “To progress in farm safety, we need to know how we are actually doing and where there are areas for improvement. That’s why this report on how the Code of Practice is being implemented is so important.
“Interestingly, we’ve found that larger farms have more accidents, as their work is more intensive and they have a lot more to focus on – health and safety simply gets squeezed out. The solution to accident and ill health prevention lies mainly in farmer education, backed up by authoritative guidance in our schools, to develop positive attitudes about health and safety and an understanding of the benefits of getting it right.”
Speakers during the event also included Dr Noel Richardson, director of the Centre for Men’s Health, at the Institute of Technology, Carlow and Farm Relief Services (FRS) national safety manager Jim Dockery. Lyme disease was also placed under the spotlight by Jenny O’Dea, co-founder of Tick Talk Ireland, and Dr Eoin Healy, research associate from the School of Biological, Environmental and Earth Sciences, University of Cork.