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Manor man’s case highlights importance of farm safety

Brendan McLaughlin.


THREE months have passed since the Vice Chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association in Donegal was seriously injured in a freak farm accident at his home.
Mr Brendan McLaughlin, who farms 86 acres at Balleighan, outside Manorcunningham, had been treating a sick calf on Sunday, April 22, when its mother suddenly ran towards him.
The 66-year-old sustained serious leg injuries as he instinctively tried to jump out of the heifer’s path at the last minute.
The Donegal IFA vice chairman was taken to Letterkenny University Hospital where he underwent surgery to a leg that was broken in three places.
It’s Farm Safety Week and Mr McLaughlin acknowledged that farming continues to have one of the poorest safety records of any sector in Ireland.
Speaking from his home this week Mr McLaughlin said that a man needed to have his own house in order before speaking out on health and safety on the farm.
“Everything was in place back in April and it was just a freak accident. There wasn’t a thing I could do about it,” he said.
“I’m always preaching about farm safety but this incident just goes to show you that you can never trust an animal. If my story helps to save one life on another farm then my current pain and injuries will have been worth it. You can never, ever be too safe,” he added.
Last year, 24 people lost their lives in farm accidents and 11 people have lost their lives so far in 2018.
“I broke the leg in three places near the bottom of the ankle. It’s taking me a long time to get over the accident. I’m attending physio every week,” he said.
July and August represent a relatively quiet time on the farm. May and June are busy months as farmers take in the silage while much of the spring is taken up with calving cows and lambing ewes.
“Generally, weather is a problem at this time of year as we only tend to get two or three dry days at a time and we have to rush to try and get everything done within a short window – which can lead to misakes being made and safety compromised. This year though the weather has been great and farmers are more relaxed,” he said.
The key dangers on farms are child safety, machinery and the fact that farmers often work alone.
“It’s always important to keep an eye out on young children and knowing where they are at all times. You can never be too safe. While no child under the age of seven is allowed up on a tractor sometimes it’s safer to have them up on the tractor – safely harnessed – alongside you,” he said.
“When you’re agitating slurry you’re working with dangerous odourless gases and, again, you can never be too careful,” he added.
While Mr McLaughlin has been incapacitated he’s had to rely on his two sons, Diarmuid and Conor, his brother Kieran, his wife Bried and the help and support of neighbours to get all the work done.
“It’s not been easy for Bried to spend the last few months watching me sitting in a chair. My brother (Kieran) lives in Muff and he comes up to me every day. The two boys have also been good to me while the neighbours have been second to none,” he said.
His two daughters Yvonne and Mary Louise, who live in Letterkenny and Dublin respectively, also help out where possible while his presence of his six grand-children on the farm has also been therapeudic.
“A wee bit of common sense goes a long way on a farm but all it takes is a split second for something to go wrong. It was Sunday lunch-time when I had my accident. Farmers can’t stop on a Friday evening at half five but, then again, there’s nothing more I would rather be at. I’ll never retire – watching cattle is my hobby. It’s something that I love doing.
“I would consider myself to be light, agile and quick for my age but this accident has put me back a bit. I’m still half laid up. It will be August before I’m back close to being myself once more. You can never be too safe on a farm. Alway take your time and think safety because your life can literally change in a second – as I found out back in April,” he said.

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