In a bid to cut the number of farm deaths in Northern Ireland, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is launching a six-week long initiative focusing on farm safety.

Last year's figures show a farmer was killed every month while working on a farm in Northern Ireland. As part of the initiative, teams of staff will be visiting farms to raise awareness of safety within four key areas: unguarded machinery, handling livestock, falls from heights and incidents involving slurry tanks – all of which have been identified as the main causes of farm fatalities.

HSENI officials will also work closely with the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to develop a farm safety partnership.

“After the terrible situation we had in Northern Ireland last year we decided we needed to get other groups involved,” explained Malcolm Downey, from the HSENI. “Our aim is to raise the profile of health and safety, by getting people thinking and talking about it. It is really about getting people to stop, think and improve things to keep themselves safe,” he added.

Meanwhile Farmers For Action (FFA) has requested a meeting with DARD's farm safety division to discuss the issue. The FFA said although increased inspections may help, they would not fix the problem completely. Instead it is calling for the HSENI to show greater support for its Welsh, Scottish and English equivalents.

It also wants pressure put on DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman to take the case to Brussels and try to get the issue addressed in the new¬†Common Agricultural Policy 2013-19 reforms. “HSENI must put the case that farmers desperately need a financial safety net in place before safety issues can be properly addressed and point out to the EU Commission that failure to do so will cost many more lives,” said a FFA spokesman.