The 2005 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act has specific legislation relating to safety in farming environments, which specifies the following requirements. It is the law to have:

• A safe place of work which includes the farmyard and buildings
• Safe working practices and procedures
• Safe equipment and machinery
• A safe way in and out of the farmyard and other places of work, including farm buildings
• Information and training for workers on the farm
• Personal, protective equipment where necessary
• A safe system for the storage, handling and use of articles and substances
• Adequate toilet and washing facilities

Although you might be a self-employed farmer, you have similar duties and responsibilities to those of an employer. Farmers are legally obliged to conduct their farming in a way that does not put themselves or other persons at risk. If there is an accident on the farm, which prevents anyone carrying out their normal duties for more than three calendar days, farmers must report it to the Health & Safety Authority. Specified dangerous occurrences, such as fires,chemical spillages and explosions must also be notified to the Health & Safety Authority.

Similar to the obligations placed upon an employer, it is the farmers duty to take care of themselves and others. It is vital that they cooperate with employees, inspectors and any other regulatory agencies when necessary. If there is a need for specific personal, protective equipment, farmers need to be sure to provide it and not misuse any equipment which is provided for their own safety. The most recent available HSA data reveals that an average of 3,000 farm inspections are carried out each year. A specialist team of inspectors works exclusively within the agricultural sector.

Recent data indicates that levels of compliance within the sector are increasing, but there is still a disproportionate number of accidents within the agricultural sector when compared with others. Inspectors can enforce two distinct types of notice when it comes to a farming inspection.

An Improvement Notice is a legal directive from an inspector which requires that certain improvements be carried out on a farm within a specified time frame. A Prohibition Notice is a legal instruction which directs that a particular work activity be ceased due to the level of danger it presents.

Useful information:
The various legal frameworks that account for the safety, health and welfare of farmers are as follows:
• Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005
• Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007
• Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013
• Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical) Agent Regulations 2001

The author: Nick Fitzgerald