Almost 50 farm deaths in last five years

Ulster Rugby's Nevin Spence, who lost his life along with his father and brother in a farm accident in 2012
Ulster Rugby's Nevin Spence, who lost his life along with his father and brother in a farm accident in 2012

Farming accidents have claimed the lives of nearly 50 people in Northern Ireland since 2011.

There have been 47 deaths on farms in the period from January 1, 2011 until October 13 this year, Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen has revealed.

Seven of those 47 deaths occurred in slurry-related incidents.

Former unionist MLA John McCallister, who comes from a farming background, said: “When you look at it cumulatively it seems like a lot, but if you look at some of those years within the past five years, they are some of the lowest on record.

“Farm safety is improving, just as road safety is improving. We don’t stop. Zero is always the goal.

“There is no denying that 47 deaths is too many. If you lost 47 people in a public sector job there would be merry hell.”

He added: “Farming deaths are the most high profile right now but if you look back at the construction industry they were in a similar position.

“They took serious efforts to address that. Construction deaths are now few and far between.

“It is important that when you have a serious problem, you must keep addressing it and keep making people aware of the dangers.

“The Spence family tragedy highlighted the dangers of working on a farm and there have sadly been other incidents which demonstrate that the impact of a farm death is absolutely huge.

“These are small, family-run businesses. It impacts a family living place and a workplace.

“The remaining family members continue to work in the place where they’ve lost a loved one.”

Another MLA who comes from an agricultural background, the DUP’s William Irwin, said: “The figures certainly are shocking. A lot of these deaths come down to simple mistakes, things a farmer might do every day that are second nature, but are extremely dangerous practices.

“A lot of farmers think it will never happen to them. In the same way when you’re driving you think road accidents only happen to other people.”

The agriculture minister released the figures in response to a query from West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff.

Ms McIlveen outlined the work from her department on trying to make Northern Ireland farms safer, but stressed that it was up to farmers to “put into practice those actions” that can help save lives.