Farmers need to call out unsafe practices and speak up, says the newly-appointed Minister of State with responsibility for farm safety Martin Heydon.

The Kildare South Fine Gael TD, himself a farmer, has said it needs to become "socially unacceptable" for farmers to be "doing something that is unsafe".

Mr Heydon is the first ever Minister of State to be assigned specific responsibility for farm safety. His appointment comes as a record number of people have been killed on farms so far this year. The current number stands at 14 dead, three of whom were children.

Speaking at the beginning of Farm Safety Week, he said that attitudes must change if lives are to be saved.

The National Office of Clinical Audit (NOCA) has also released research which reveals the extent of major trauma injuries on farms in recent years.

The study, over a three-year period from 2014 to 2016, reveals there were over 400 major trauma injuries on farms, excluding fatalities.

29% of such cases end up in intensive care with a third of all reported injuries resulting from interaction with animals. More than one quarter of injuries were falls from a height of less than two metres, but with serious injuries.

6% of injuries involved children under six years of age, 27% were adults, mainly men, aged over 65.

The audit also finds that the number of injuries on farms is increasing, year on year and that men are more likely to suffer injury than women.

The data released by the NOCA reveals that dairy farming is the most dangerous type of farming in Ireland. It also finds that agriculture workers suffer more than twice as many non-fatal workplace injuries as workers in other sectors.

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Dr Conor Deasy, one of the authors of the report, says, "farmers need to think safety first and need to think how dangerous an animal could be". He said that many farm accidents are "devastating, for the people on that farm and in the wider community".

The emergency medicine doctor at Cork University Hospital said the high number of serious injuries involving animals is an indication of how people perceive them as a threat.

He said that "large animal trauma seems to be more of an issue than machinery trauma, that speaks probably to the fact that we often live as a family on a farm, when an industrial contractor comes in to do silage, there is probably more respect towards large machinery than towards animals".

Responding to the finding that dairy farms were the most dangerous in the country, Dr Deasy said: "Injuries are related to the degree of activity across the sectors and dairy is a busy activity in many regions, so it is not surprising because there is more activity on dairy farms, there is more potential for trauma injuries too."

Reacting to the figures, IFA President Tim Cullinan said: "Understanding the risks on and around a farm operation makes it easier to avoid dangers, and makes accidents less likely. However, all too often, farmers do not recognise the risks on their farms, which makes it difficult to manage the problem. Farmers have to be more careful, take their time and think about what could go wrong before they undertake any job."

The Irish Farmers Association, Department of Agriculture, Health and Safety Authority and a range of other organisations and agencies are promoting farm safety all this week.