Farmers have been issued with a fresh warning about the dangers of slurry pits by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and Fire Service.
The warning about the dangers of slurry pits was released jointly by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) and the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) – who, to date this year, have been called upon to rescue four animals that have fallen into uncovered slurry pits.
Although any loss of livestock can be devastating to the farming community, the warning about the dangers of slurry pits focuses on the risk of injury and death to farmers, farm employees and their families.
Slurry is one of the four main causes of death and serious injuries on Northern Ireland farms due to farmers and farm employees being overcome by the gas released from slurry during mixing and falling through slurry pit openings into the tank.
Malcolm Downey, who leads the farm safety team at HSENI, said “Before mixing slurry, always stop and think about the job ahead and make preparations to complete the entire task safely. You must cover all the openings and keep children and animals well away during the mixing process.”
He continued: “Stay out for 30 minutes after starting mixing or after moving or re-directing the pump and try to mix on a windy day. Do not take any chances when mixing slurry, you are risking your own life and the lives of others as well as putting your livestock in danger.”
Mr Downey´s warning about the dangers of slurry pits was echoed by Fergal Leonard – NIFRS´ Group Commander – who added: “For Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, public safety is our priority and the best course of action is through prevention”.
Mr Leonard warned: “At this time of year, slurry is being removed from the pits and used as fertiliser on the fields. This can be hazardous if the slurry pit is not properly ventilated during mixing operations and storage lids are not replaced immediately after filling a tanker. We would appeal for farmers to be vigilant in ensuring the access hatches into slurry pits are secure and well maintained”.
A farmer from Killylea in County Armagh has been fined £1,000 by magistrates for a health and safety breach that led to an injury to a worker at a dairy.
In June 2015, the unnamed worker was helping to erect a fence on land owned by the farmer – David Murphy – when his left leg was impaled by one of the prongs of a silage buckrake that fell from the front of a telescopic materials handler.
An investigation into the accident and injury to a worker at a dairy revealed that there had been a breach of Article 4 of the Health and Safety at Work Order (NI) 1978, and Murphy was prosecuted by HSENI inspectors.
At the hearing of Armagh Magistrates´ Court, Murphy pled guilty to the charge on causing an injury to a worker at a dairy and was fined £1,000. Following the hearing, Kevin Campbell – an inspector with HSENI’s Major Investigation Team – said:
“Farmers must ensure that proper systems are in place to prevent employees being injured. In addition, the correct equipment must be used and be maintained in good working order. Any misuse of equipment, or the wrong choice of machinery has the potential for things to go wrong, resulting in serious injury, as was the case in this totally preventable accident.”
A claim for a fall in a farmyard barn, in which the plaintiff lost his senses of smell and taste, has been resolved at the High Court with the approval of a €300,000 compensation settlement.
On 11th August 2008, Con Oxley – a self-employed electrician from Cullahill in County Laois – was rolling out electric cable in preparation of implementing a lighting installation in a farmyard barn in nearby Ballacolla.
As he stepped onto a plank suspended between two boxes to move from the first installation to the second, the plank snapped beneath him and he fell eight feet (2.5 metres) to the floor.
Con hit his head on the floor of the farmyard barn as he landed and suffered brain damage as a result. He now has no sense of smell or taste and is partially blind in his left eye.
After speaking with a solicitor, Con made a compensation claim for a fall in a farmyard barn against the owner of the farm – Mark Quigley – alleging that the planks he had been provided with were unsuitable for supporting his weight.
In addition to claiming that Quigley was negligent for providing materials unsuitable for the job, Con also claimed that Quigley had failed to ensure his safety by neglecting to put intermediary supports beneath the planks or any mechanism to arrest a fall.
Quigley denied his liability for Con´s injuries, and Con was issued with an authorisation by the Injuries Board to pursue his compensation claim for a fall in a farmyard barn through the court system.
However, before a hearing was scheduled, an agreement was made to divide liability on a 50/50 basis – with Con agreeing to a €300,000 settlement of compensation in return for Quigley not having to admit liability.
At the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Kevin Cross approved the settlement of Con´s compensation claim for a fall in a farmyard barn – saying that the settlement was a good one in the circumstances.
The judge said that Con´s contributory negligence for failing to inspect the plank before stepping onto it would have counted against him had the claim for a fall in a farmyard barn gone to a full court hearing.
A Supreme Court judge has upheld a High Court ruling in a combine harvester injury claim against John Deere – one of the world´s largest manufacturers of farm machinery.
In June 1995, thirty-year-old Denis Scollard was working for agricultural contractors Thomas and William Wright, collecting silage for various farmers in County Limerick and operating a John Deere 6810 combine harvester.
While operating the combine harvester, a grass blockage occurred; and Denis attempted to clear the obstacle via the inspection hatch. However, as he was doing so, the fingers of his left hand were crushed when the combine harvester´s paddles came down inside the chute.
Denis made a combine harvester injury claim in 1996 against his employers and received €430,000 personal injury compensation. Thomas and William Wright then made a claim against the companies from whom the machine was leased and supplied to recover what they had paid to Denis.
AIB Finance & Leasing and Geary’s Garage Ltd – respectively the leasing company and suppliers of the combine harvester – in turn sought indemnity from John Deere Ltd who are the manufacturers of the combine harvester.
John Deere Ltd denied any liability for Denis´ injuries and argued that the accident could not have occurred as claimed as the paddles would not have crushed Denis´ fingers if he had followed the instructions published in the combine harvester´s manual.
Their defence was that there was no scientific basis to explain how the paddles could have moved if Denis had disengaged the engine of the combine harvester as he claimed he had. However, at the High Court in December 2007, Ms Justice Mary Irvine found in favour of AIB Finance & Leasing and Geary’s Garage after hearing evidence from two eye witnesses and a medical expert.
The judge ruled that John Deere Ltd had been negligent by “designing, manufacturing and selling a combine harvester with a design defect” and she ordered them to settle the combine harvester injury claim; commenting that Denis´ injuries would have been far worse if the engine of the combine harvester had been engaged.
John Deere Ltd appealed the decision, and last week the case was heard at the Supreme Court before Mr Justice Frank Clarke. After hearing the case again, Judge Clarke upheld the High Court verdict that Denis´ injuries were a foreseeable consequence of negligence, and ordered John Deere Ltd to reimburse the €430,000 paid in settlement of Denis´ combine harvester injury claim.
A decision has been put on hold in respect of a woman´s loss of eye accident claim after evidence in the case was heard at the High Court.
Elaine Newman (27), formerly of Mullingar, County Westmeath, made the injury claim for the loss of an eye against her partner´s parents, following an accident she had at the family´s farmhouse in Delvin, County Westmeath in June 2007.
The court heard that, as Elaine and her partner Emmett Cogan were entering the house through the rear door, Emmett – who was on crutches at the time – tripped and broke one of the glass panes in the door as he tried to arrest his fall.
As the glass from the window pane shattered, splinters covered Elaine´s face and several entered her right eye. She was rushed to Mullingar Hospital, from where she was transferred to the Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin, but – despite surgery – doctors were unable to save the eye.
Elaine subsequently made a loss of eye accident claim against Patrick and Marie Cogan under the Occupier´s Liability Act, but Mr and Mrs Cogan denied liability for her eye injury – claiming that her injuries arose from Emmett´s negligence and Elaine´s own contributory negligence.
Elaine – who now lives in Australia with Emmett and their four-year-old son – told Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill at the High Court that the fitting of an artificial eye had affected her self-esteem and she was constantly worried that she would suffer an injury to her other eye and lose her sight altogether.
However, a report commissioned into the accident concluded that, although there were many unusual features in the description of the accident, the door in which the glass shattered was typical in type and age to farmhouse doors around the country. There was no obligation, the author of the report wrote, to retrofit safety glass in such doors.
After hearing evidence from all parties involved in the loss of eye accident claim, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill adjourned the case with judgement reserved for later consideration.
A conference in Dublin, organised by the Health and Safety Authority, Teagasc and the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee has heard that the number of fatal farm accidents has already reached 16 this year, and is on its way to passing the twenty year high of 26 farm-related deaths in 2010.
Key speaker at the event, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, heard that the highest proportion of deaths on farms was due to accidents with machinery, but that other hazards – such as the handling of livestock and the prevention of falls – also had to be tackled.
The Minister responded by stating that “People working on farms need to be more conscious of safety requirements, in particular since in many instances they are working on their own. A significant change in mindset is required if we are to prevent further serious farm accidents”.
He continued by commenting “By continuously talking about and being aware of farm safety we can together bring about a change of culture and farmer thinking in this area”, and concluded his speech by saying “changing farmers´ attitudes is ultimately about self-regulation”.
The conference, which was hosted in Castleknock marked the first time that an international meeting on agricultural occupational health and safety had been held in Ireland, and representatives from the United States, Norway, Denmark, Italy and Great Britain were also in attendance.
A cattle drover, who suffered serious injuries after being kicked by a bullock, is to receive damages from his employer after the Supreme Court ruled that the employer had placed the injured employee at risk.
Mr. Patrick Lynch (53) of Crubany, County Cavan, had been one of a team of three cattle drovers who were employed by Cavan Co-op Mart in October 2003 to herd cattle from a pen in the mart yard to a dividing pen prior to their entering the sales ring.
However, on the day on which Mr. Lynch sustained his injuries, his two companions had absented themselves temporarily, and it was claimed in court that Mr. Lynch had to perform the two absent drovers’ tasks, as well as his own, which required him to enter the individual pens while they were occupied by animals.
As Mr. Lynch was moving through the animal pen to open a gate, the court heard how a Limousin bullock delivered a direct kick to Mr. Lynch’s groin, causing significant trauma to the scrotum and giving rise to a haemorrhage which caused damage to his right testis. Mr. Lynch was subsequently taken to Cavan Hospital for treatment.
The court ruled that, although a safe procedure of work was in place when three drovers were present, there was no system of supervision by the employer. As the improper absence of the other two drovers exposed Mr. Lynch to danger, Cavan Co-op Mart was liable for his injuries.
The case has now been referred to the High Court for the assessment of damages.
A teenager who sustained an eye injury when his eye was impaled on an exposed milking machine hook is to receive 110,000 Euros in compensation. Mr. Justice John Quirke heard at the High Court how David Booth, 17, of Stradbally, County Laois was just eight years of age when he sustained the horrific injury in the milking parlour at his family’s farm in April 2002.
Although David has no recollection of the events leading up to the accident, it was claimed that the defendants – Senior Milking Machine Company Ltd and Stradbally Farm Services Ltd, both of Stradbally, County Laois – were negligent on the grounds that the milking machine was not designed and constructed to a safe standard.
The defendant denied the claim, brought on David’s behalf through his elder sister Elaine, and also that they permitted an exposed hook to be present on the machine with no consideration of the hazard it presented. The settlement was approved by Mr Justice John Quirke without admission of liability.
A report released by the Health and Safety Authority has revealed an increase of 127% in fatal accidents on Irish farms in 2010. The number of deaths in the agriculture industry rose from 11 in 2009 to 25 in 2010 and represents more than half of all workplace fatalities occurring in Ireland.
Commenting on the high fatal accident rate in agriculture, Chief Executive of the HSA, Mr. Martin O´Halloran stated “Farming is a difficult and challenging occupation, many involved are self-employed and the pressures that farmers are under can be intense at times. However, the fact is that the types of farm accidents that are causing deaths and serious accidents, such as those involving machinery and livestock, can be prevented.”
He also urged farmers and farm proprietors to follow the example of the construction industry, which has seen a substantial drop in workplace fatalities (from 10 to 6 in 2010), and which Mr. O´Halloran attributed to everybody “buying-in” to the concept of health and safety. Reaffirming the HSA policy that increased compliance results in a sustained reduction in accidents, Mr O´Halloran announced an increase in planned farm inspections in 2011 from 1,700 (in 2010) to a minimum of 3,000.
Acknowledging that many types of farm accidents which cause death and serious injury can be prevented, Mr. O’Halloran concluded, “We want to work with farmers by taking a sensible approach to health and safety management. We will support those that genuinely want to improve and take enforcement action against those that refuse to do so”.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has launched new farm safety guidelines with the support of farming organisations. Farms are the most dangerous workplaces in Ireland in terms of fatal accidents. The focus of the HSA’s efforts are to help farmers identify and negate the key risks and hazards in farms. For example, it is not generally known that farm animals are one of the main causes of farm deaths. The new farm safety initiative includes an improved code of practice for child safety on farms, guidelines on the safe use of tractors, guidance on safety around overhead power lines, and guidance on livestock safety at marts and lairages. The objective is to reduce the number of farm accidents.
Mr Justice John Quirke of the High Court in Dublin has approved a settlement award of €1.28m to a County Waterford teenager TJ Kearns, who lost a leg in a farming accident. The farm accident occurred on April 20, 2001, when TJ Kearns’ leg got entangled in a power seed sowing machine while working on a farm when he was nine years of age. TJ Kearns was in a tractor with a power harrow attached that was driven by an adult.
The defendants in the case were John Joe Flynn, Eugene Flynn and Gerard Flynn of Dunmore East, County Waterford. As is common in most workplace injury claims, liability in the action had been admitted. As a minor, TJ Kearns of Viewmount, Waterford sued through his father Tom Kearns. The settlement offer had to be approved in the High Court because TJ Kearns is a minor.
While approving the settlement, Mr Justice Quirke stated that “no money could compensate TJ fully for what he had suffered” . TJ Kearns received treatment National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghire and now uses an artificial leg.