The number of farming workplace deaths remained high in 2016 despite a drop of over 20% in workplace fatal accidents across all sectors for the year.

Forty-four people were killed in workplaces in 2016, a 21% reduction of the 56 reported in 2015, according to figures released by the Health and Safety Authority.

The number of deaths on farms, however, increased with 21 reported in 2016 compared to 18 in 2015.

Construction fatalities were down to nine in 2016 from 11 in 2015.

Fishing-related deaths were down to three in 2016 from five in 2015. The transportation and storage sector had one fatality compared to four in 2015.

Across all sectors, accidents involving vehicles accounted for nearly half (20) of all fatalities in 2016.

The county with the highest number of fatalities in 2016 was Cork with eight reported, followed by Kerry and Meath with four each.

The majority of work-related deaths (30) involved 25-65-year-old males. However, there were nine men aged over 65 killed in the agriculture sector.

The HSA has urged farmers to plan and carry out "quick safety checks" around machinery to help to reduce the number of fatalities on farms.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, HSA Chief Executive Martin O'Halloran said of the 21 fatalities on farms, 12 related to tractors and machinery.

He said machinery is getting bigger and there needed to be segregation between where machines are used and where people are working.

There is a very high over-representation of elderly farmers in the statistics, he added.

Mr O'Halloran said the "most fundamental thing" is for farmers to plan the day and spend ten seconds thinking about hazards, risks and controls. Taking time to assess the job will make a difference, he said.

Mr O'Halloran said a 24% reduction in HSA staffing has had a knock-on effect on the number of inspections it has been able to carry out in the last number of years.

He said the HSA hopes to increase the number of inspections carried out on construction sites in 2017 as employment in the sector grows.

The HSA is not in a position to police all 100,000 farms or 350,000 workplaces and changing behaviour is key to reducing fatalities, he added.