New Study Finds Tiredness And Stress Are ‘Key Causes’ Of Farm Accidents

Largest number of work-related deaths in 2020 occurred in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors

Stress and fatigue have been identified as key causes of agricultural accidents by researchers from the University of Aberdeen.

The NTSAg group from the University researched the role of non-technical skills in farming and investigated ‘situation awareness’, broadly defined as ‘knowing what is happening around you’ for the project.

They found that lapses in situation awareness, related to stress and fatigue, were a main contributory factor in farming accidents.

The project is the first of its kind to look at the impact of stress and fatigue on situation awareness and safety in agriculture.

Agriculture is the most dangerous industry in the UK and in Ireland when measured by fatality and injury rate.

Farm deaths rose by6 0% this year to a total of 34 fatalities – significantly higher than the five-year average.

The largest number of work-related deaths in 2020 occurred in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors, according to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

18 of those who died were self-employed while the highest number of fatal workplace incidents involved people aged 65 years and over (34%), with 12 in agriculture, forestry and fishing and three in construction.

The proportion of fatal incidents involving people aged 65 years or more has increased from 12.5% in 2015 to 34% in 2020.

Agriculture is the most dangerous industry in the UK and in Ireland when measured by fatality and injury rate, according to University of Aberdeen research. Pic. Gerry Faughnan.


Meanwhile, the project undertook to interview 15 farmers from Ireland and the UK.

They were asked to describe a farming accident when they were tired or stressed followed by several questions about their general experience of stress and fatigue in farming.

The results showed that situation awareness lapses were present in all accidents and incidents reported and that many lapses occurred at the ‘perception’ level, such as a failure to notice something.

Other lapses in situation awareness were described at the ‘comprehension’ level in the form of an incorrect or incomplete understanding of the situation, such as misjudging the size of a vehicle.

Some of these incidents were attributed to a recent change in equipment or machinery or over-familiarity with existing equipment.

“We wanted to find out what the sources of stress and fatigue in farming are and how these factors might influence farmer safety,” said Ilinca-Ruxandra Tone.

“Moreover, we wanted to explore the link between stress and fatigue, situation awareness lapses and safety in farmers – something that no one has looked at until now.

“We found consistently that farmers’ stress and fatigue can negatively affect their mental picture of what is going on which leads to accidents and incidents.

“This is hugely significant given that stress and fatigue are prevalent issues in agriculture, alongside more serious mental health issues and our findings extend our knowledge to establish a link between stress and fatigue and situation awareness.”

(Source – Irish Examiner – Farming – Aisling Kiernan – 17/07/2021)

9th Farm Safety Week Encourages Farm Families To Rethink Safety

Today (Monday) marks the ninth annual Farm Safety Week in Ireland and the UK, an initiative led by the Irish Farmers Association here and by Yellow Wellies UK.

The message for this year is: Rethink Safety, which aims to encourage a deeper awareness of everyday risks on farms and the practical steps needed to reduce risk.

Farm Safety Week (FSW) is supported by several agencies, including the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee members.

This year’s Farm Safety Week features video testimonial from farm accident survivor Eileen O’Driscoll in west Cork and the impact on her life.

Eileen farms with her husband Padraig in Skibbereen and suffered a livestock-related injury in 2015.

Her accident happened on Mother’s Day of that year when Eileen and her husband were checking their suckler herd. She suffered multiple fractures and needed to be airlifted to Cork University Hospital by the Toe Head and Glandore Coastguard.

Her farm accident impacted her B&B business significantly, and she required months of intensive rehabilitation.

The video also features first responders who discuss the challenge of coming to the aid of somebody who’s had an accident.

IFA President Tim Cullinan said Farm Safety Week is an important part of the annual calendar. It focuses on how farm families can continually improve their approach to farm safety.

“The messages from this week should be carried forward by everybody working on farms, to keep themselves safe. The impact of COVID-19 on people’s mental well-being cannot be underestimated. We would encourage everybody to seek support and resources to maintain a resilient and positive approach to their work,” he said.

Patricia Murray, Senior Psychologist with the HSA, highlights the warning signs and what we can all do to make a positive difference to our mental well-being.

“Now more than ever, the stress of juggling many different tasks, rushing to meet deadlines and working in isolation are challenging most of us. When we’re stressed or tired, we don’t pay attention to details. We make more mistakes, which can have devastating consequences”.

“Take short breaks regularly, even for five minutes, build enjoyment into the working day to alleviate the build-up of stress. Get support and help from local networks and plan for activities you find stressful to reduce the risk. Re-framing a dreaded task by imagining how someone else might do it can often help”.   

FBD Risk Manager Ciarán Roche said now is the time to challenge ourselves to work more safely and stop taking risks. Time is a precious commodity on farms, but it’s vital that farmers do take the time to review working practices and ask if there are any practical safety measures they could implement to make the farm a safer place.

“This Farm Safety Week, we urge farmers to take time to assess their working environment, equipment and practices, and to put control measures in place to eliminate unnecessary risks,” he said.

The Director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle, said Teagasc strongly supports Farm Safety Week. It’s a time to highlight the risks associated with farming and encourage farmers to put measures in place to reduce these risks and make their farms safer places to work.

“This year, we are particularly aware of the mental and physical toll that COVID-19 has had on all aspects of society. I urge all farmers to keep positive mental health and well-being at the top of their agenda,” he said.

(Source – Leitrim Observer – Farming & Rural Affairs – Sian Moloughney – 19/07/2021)

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