26 May 1995

Deaths rise blamed on bad servicing

POOR machinery maintenance is a big cause of the steeply-increasing number of fatal farming accidents in Wales, writes Robert Davies.

At the National Sheep Associations Welsh Sheep 95, Brian Neale, the Health & Safety Executives principal agricultural inspector for Wales, said too many farmers were trying to keep machines for longer, while cutting corners on servicing.

"One recent fatality resulted from ineffective tractor brakes, which must be a perfect example of false economy," Mr Neale said. "Provisional accident statistics for Wales show that during the past year, at least eight people died in farm accidents or as a result of work-related ill health. This compares with four fatalities in 1993 and 1994 and reflects the difficulties faced by small businesses and people working alone.

Devastating cost

"It is vital we get the message across. There is an especially high proportion of self-employed farmers in Wales and the economic consequences of accidents to small farming units can be devastating," he said.

A recent study indicated that a fatal farm accident could cost a family around £570,000, and early retirement forced by an accident about £140,000. This made the total annual cost of all UK farm accidents £30m.

In a new campaign to get over the farm safety message, the HSE used the sheep event to launch a Welsh language version of Farmwise – a guide to the prevention of agricultural accidents and complying with the law.

Mr Neale hoped the use of Welsh would mean that the information would get through to more farmers and farm workers west of Offas Dyke. &#42