Teagasc and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) have renewed a joint initiative in order to further promote farmer safety and health for the next three years. The “Joint Initiative Agreement” aims to provide safety and health research, training and advisory support to farmers.
It is a challenging time for the agricultural sector with continuous industry expansion and an ageing farmer population, says the HSA. Statistics show that the farming industry, which represents 5 to 6 percent of the workforce, often accounts for up to 50% of work related deaths.
The HSA continued by stating:
“In 2017, out of a total of 47 workplace deaths, 24 farmers died in work related accidents, with 14 being aged 65 or older.”
The joint initiative was set up in 2005 when the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act was enacted. This led to the establishment of making farm safety and health more accessible to farmers through a simplified ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’.
During 2018 research on farm accident levels conducted by the Teagasc National Farmer Survey will be finalised. A jointly funded study on the usefulness of discussion groups in promoting farm safety is also underway.
As part of the joint initiative, training on use of the ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’ will continue to be provided by Teagasc and Agricultural Consultants. Completion of the training is also a requirement for farmers to secure the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s TAMS II funding.
Martin O’Halloran, CEO of the HSA, in welcoming renewal of the joint initiative, stated that it has led to increased awareness but that must now lead to safer work practices.
“The approach to farm safety and health is generally well understood by farmers and the broader farming community, but this awareness must now be matched by real actions on the ground. Farmers face a wide variety of hazards and risks on a daily basis and must proactively manage them to ensure a safe and healthy working life”, said Mr O’Halloran.
Professor Gerry Boyle, Teagasc Director stated that Teagasc will be emphasising the need for improvements in work organisation to cut farmer workloads in its advisory programmes in 2018.
“Working long hours and hurrying have been shown to be major contributory factors in farm accident causation, he stated. This may also be a contributory factor to the rise in accidents among older farmers in recent years”, he said.
The HSA reminds all farmers that a new revised version of the ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’ and Risk Assessment was released in 2017 and that they must complete the new document by the end of 2018.