A “dark year” for farm fatalities in Ireland

Farm deaths in rural Ireland have reached 23 as the year nears the three quarter mark. That’s seven more deaths than all last year and five more than the annual average of 18.

The Irish Times reports the surge of fatalities “comes at at time when there has never been a greater focus on farm safety.” The story reports that the Irish Farmers’ Association held the first National Farm Safety Awareness Day in July. A support group called Embrace Farm has also launched a video campaign called “What’s Left Behind” to call attention to the issue.

The primary causes of farm fatalities are, in descending order, tractor and other vehicles, machinery, animals, trips and falls, drowning, collapse of working platforms, wood/forestry related and electrocution, according to a May 2012 report by Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority in Ireland.

The fatalities mentioned above apply only to the Republic and not the six counties of Northern Ireland. I was curious to see how these figures compared to the Ireland of 100 years ago, before partition, when more people were employed in less mechanized farming. So I uploaded the Annual Report of the Registrar-General for Ireland during the year 1914.

The statistical abstract contains nearly 200 “causes of death in Ireland,” which total 71,345 for the year, but there is not a category for farm fatalities. The report says there were 532 deaths from “injuries.” Assuming 5 percent of the total was related to agricultural work yields nearly 27 fatalities, or four more than the nine month total for the 26 counties.

I suspect the figure was likely much higher.