It’s the law: why you must report farm accidents
Farming can at times be a hazardous occupation, and it is important that all farmers are aware of health and safety legislation.
A farmer has certain responsibilities to prevent accidents from happening, on and off his or her farm. The fatality rate in agriculture is far higher than any other economic sector.
A large proportion of all fatal workplace accidents occur in agriculture, even though only a small proportion of the workforce is employed in farming.
The level of farm accidents is not decreasing.
And similar accidents occur each year.
In 2013, 16 people died on Irish farms. In 2014, that figure almost doubled to 30, with 55% of all work-related deaths categorised as farming fatalities. In 2015, 18 people died on Irish farms.
A person is eight times more likely to die whilst working on a farm in Ireland than in the general working population.
If an accident does occur, a farmer has an obligation to report it to the appropriate authorities.
Health and safety in Ireland is governed by a combination of common law (judge-made law) and statute. The main legislation providing for the health and safety of people in the workplace is the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, as amended by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (hereafter “the 2005 Act”). The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 defined an accident as an incident arising out of or in the course of employment which, in the case of a person carrying out work, results in personal injury. Personal injury was defined by the 2005 Act as any injury, disease, disability, occupational illness or any impairment of physical mental condition, and any death that is attributed to work. Recently, changes have been made in respect of reporting accidents, with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Reporting of Accidents and Dangerous Occurrences) Regulations 2016 (“the Reporting Regulations”). When an accident happens, it must be reported to the Health and Safety Authority. There is an online reporting system (www.hsa.ie). There are a number of circumstances in which an accident or incident is reportable to the Health and Safety Authority including the following: Where there is a dangerous occurrence.
A fatality has occurred arising out of the accident. An injury to an employee where he or she cannot perform his or her work for more than three days.
An injury to a visitor or member of the public where medical treatment is required.
Employers, self-employed individuals, landlords, owners and tenants all have duties under these regulations to report accidents or dangerous occurrences.
There is an obligation to keep records of any reporting of accidents for 10 years, if you are required to report accidents under the regulations. In the event of a fatal accident, the employer is obliged to immediately report the accident to the Health and Safety Authority.
The scene of the accident has to be preserved.
The Gardaí should also be notified of all workplace accidents resulting in death. A formal report of a fatality has to be submitted within five days to the Health and Safety Authority.
In respect of a non-fatal accident, it should be formally reported within 10 days of the accident occurring.
The Health and Safety Authority must also be notified of specified dangerous occurrences, for example, fires, explosions and chemical spillages. As with non-fatal accidents, these must be notified within 10 days to the Health and Safety Authority. If a dangerous situation arises, work should stop immediately until the hazard or danger is controlled. One of the changes in the 2016 regulations is that wind farms are now dealt with in specified dangerous occurrences. Many landowners and farmers are leasing their lands for the purposes of wind farms. The demise or leased land are controlled by the wind farm developers under the terms of the lease. but farmers should be aware of these new rules. In the event that a wind turbine collapses, or one of the blades separates from the turbine, it is now defined as a dangerous occurrence, and has to be reported to the Health and Safety Authority within 10 days.
If an accident occurs, it is essential that you act immediately and report to the Health and Safety Authority or the Gardai if required.
It is important that accidents are reported properly in order that they can be investigated by the Health and Safety Authority and prevented from occurring in the future.
Aoibheann Mangan and Padraic Godwin, winners of the Young Person of the Year Award in 2015, for creating and designing the www.farmsafety4kids.net website. Farmers can play their part by reporting accidents (which they are legally required to do) so they can be investigated and prevented from re-occurring.
While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information contained in this article, solicitor Karen Walsh does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising, and you should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.