Tyrone farm death figures ‘scary’ says local farmer

A LOCAL farmer has described the number of farm related deaths over the last year in County Tyrone as “scary”.

Sinn Fein councillor Sean Clarke, who has been farming all his life, said economics and the fact that more farmers are working on their own could be to blame for the figures.

Last week the Mid-Ulster Mail revealed that seven out of the 20 farm deaths that occurred in the province last year happened in County Tyrone, more than in any other county.

The figures were unveiled by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Northern Ireland who say that “the majority” of fatal Northern Ireland farm accidents have taken place in Tyrone.

The statistics were taken over a 19 month period from January 2011, and have been described by senior health and safety executives as “the worst period” in farming in over 25 years.

“The figures are very disappointing, as well as scary,” said councillor Clarke.

“Farming is a dangerous occupation because you are working with machinery and you are working with animals. Add that to the fact that many farmers today are working on their own, you see how problems can occur.”

“It’s just economics. Fifteen to twenty years ago farmers might have had two to three sons working on the farm, that’s not the case anymore. It’s a lonely occupation,

The farmer and local representative added that bad weather and the pressures of the farming industry today could have had an impact on the figures.

Last week Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill met with representatives from the farming community on ways to tackle the problem, described by the HSE as “unprecedented and unexplained”.

She also recently met with representatives from Farmers For Action on the issue and said that increasing pressure and bad weather could have a role to play in the increase.

The Minister said better co-operation is needed between the department, farmers and farming representatives in reducing deaths and injuries.

“My Department, Health and Safety Executive (an agency of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment) and the UFU have recently launched the Farm Safety Partnership which aims to highlight the dangers and provide practical assistance to farmers to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities on their farms.

She added: “I hope that through working in partnership we can reduce the number of lives lost in the agricultural sector.”