Rethink Safety - Farm Safety Week 2021

This year Farm Safety Week runs from 19th-23rd July. United in the aim to reduce the number of accidents on farms and bring about a change in culture that makes unsafe practices socially unacceptable, the message for this year’s campaign is Rethink Safety.

Accidents on farms are a continuing cause of concern. For the situation to improve, the practical engagement of farmer’s is essential for progress.

Jason Byrne, Head of Agri Business at Zurich Insurance, Ireland, said asking farmers to stop and think will be a key part of changing attitudes around farming accidents across the country.

“While we can continue to offer advice and guidance, we can’t make farmers change their attitude – only you can make that change. If lives are to be saved, a rethink of our attitudes towards irrational risk-taking needs to occur at a faster pace. We all have to play our part.

“Farming has gone through a period of immense change over the past year, and it appears that, finally, the farming community has been recognised as key workers, playing an essential role in producing food for the country. But that is exactly what farmers and farm workers have always done, despite that, farming continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in Ireland.

“The family farm can be sustainable and safe – it shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. In my role, unfortunately, I see the accidents, injuries and the consequences of these events and while Zurich is always there to provide support when things go wrong, all too often they can be completely avoided.”

Zurich Farm Insurance Ambassador and Grand Prix Farmer of the Year winner, David Russell, shares his top safety tips for all farm workers:


  • Maintain your vehicles at any costs necessary. If you cannot fix it properly, take it to someone who can – there is no point taking a risk with your life in order to save money. Fifty percent of all deaths on farms in Ireland are caused by machinery.
  • Consider your visibility by keeping windows cleaned and mirrors in the correct position.
  • Drive at the appropriate speed for your load to avoid losing control. This is the most common cause of serious accidents so know your limit and stick to it!
  • Ensure operators are skilled and competent in the machinery assigned to them. As a farmer, you have responsibility for everyone working on your farm. Personally, I make sure anyone I work with is properly trained to the highest standard. Without it, they are putting themselves and others at risk.

Livestock handling

  • Make sure you have good, decent handling facilities on your farm, especially when you have big numbers of livestock such as bulls, cows and calves. Without proper facilities for these types of animals you are putting yourself at risk.
  • Incidents involving animals can become severe quickly, so it is vital you work with animals safely. Have an escape route. Animals can become aggressive, especially if offspring is involved, and you need to be able to get to safety as quickly as possible.

Don’t risk burnout

  • Often there is a level of complacency when you’re in a routine on the farm, but this is when accidents can happen. Take regular breaks and take time to recharge when needed. 
  • The summer months can be some of the busiest during the year, and with the evenings becoming longer, you can be fooled into working extra hours. But you are also most likely to be burnt out at this point.  As a young farmer I see the need for other generations before me to start putting more of an emphasis on health and safety practices. Do the right thing and enlist extra trained hands to support on the farm, while you can take a break.

Children on the farm

  • Keep track of family members and where they are playing/what time they are expected back. Growing up on the farm can be the best thing ever. It certainly was for me! But the farmyard is an incredibly busy place that offers many dangers for adventurous children.
  • Have a safe and secure play area for the children to prevent them from playing near livestock and machinery.
  • Keep children away from moving farming machinery, vehicles and animals unless accompanied.

Risk assess your Farm  

  • Use the quieter months to take the time to risk assess your farm. As farmer, we can often be inclined to wait until there is a problem or you have a close call. Being proactive is so important. 
  • Use a fresh set of eyes to look at your farm. We can become so accustomed to our surroundings and may not notice what an external person could spot as a danger.

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