Farmer whose son survived accident warns of dangers

Caroline Rainey


Caroline Rainey

A father whose son survived a farming accident is urging others to take the time to talk to farm users about the potential dangers that can occur on a farm.

Conor McMullan was 11 years old when he sustained a fractured skull in an accident at his uncle’s farm outside Castlewellan a year ago on Sunday (22 July).

His dad, John said that one year from the accident, he is very happy and lucky that their story has a happy ending.

It is understood that Conor, who has just finished his first year at St Malachy’s High School, had been attempting to unhook a piece of equipment from the back of a tractor when it reversed, pinning him against a wall.

Conor was the first casualty to be taken to hospital in the NI Air Ambulance. They have said that in the past year 10 per cent of their callouts were related to farm incidents.

John, a father of four, was speaking out to support the Farm Safety Week campaign, which launched last week. He said that his farming practices have now changed as a result of Conor’s accident and would urge others to do the same.

“Conor is back doing what he loves. He has made a great recovery.

“The accident has not deterred him from farming and he loves getting outside,” added John, however he says that the accident has changed how he looks at things.

“Before, you just went on the farm and did the work, assuming that everyone knew the dangers. Now I find myself taking the time and highlighting the potential dangers before we do any work.

“I plan what we are doing in the hope of minimising the chances that someone might be hurt.

“Just having that conversation for a few minutes can be a big factor in farm safety,” added John, who said they know that not all children have been as lucky as Conor.

During Farm Safety Week last week it was revealed that 11 children have been killed on farms across Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2017.

The Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) said that although there had been a dramatic reduction in the number of children killed on farms since its ‘Be Aware Kids’ initiative was launched in 2004, the figure remained too high.

HSENI principal inspector Malcolm Downey has directly appealed to parents to make child safety on the farm a priority, particularly during the summer.

“On farms, children are naturally curious, but keeping our children safe on those farms is one of the things that everyone agrees is essential,” he said.

“It is really important that our children are educated about safety on the farm so that they are aware of the potential dangers and learn how to avoid them.

“Please talk about safety as a family.”

Keith Morrison, Chief Executive of the HSENI, met with members of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service and thanked them for their work in saving lives on farms.

“Of the 380 callouts for the Air Ambulance in its first year of operation, around roughly 10 per cent of those have been to farming incidents, including a number of deaths, so we would appeal to the farming community during Farm Safety Week to consider the risks you are taking on a daily basis.

“Please ‘Stop and Think SAFE’ before starting any job on farm. The Air Ambulance is a vital emergency service, but please do whatever you can to avoid it having to land anywhere near your farm,” he said.

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