While the impact of Brexit, particularly on farming, making much of the headlines at the Irish Farmers Association AGM on Tuesday January 29th, Joe Healy also used his keynote speech to address to issue of farm safety.
Referring to the IFA’s new health and safety executive, Willie Sorthall, Healy said the organisation was currently endeavouring to change the “mindset” on Irish farms.
The president’s comments came on the back of a tragic fortnight in Irish agriculture where three farmers – one in Co. Mayo, another in Co. Clare and a third in Co. Roscommon – died in work-related incidents.
“We have organised events and tried to get the whole issue of safety into the mindset of people; we have also set up the full-time executive role to look at the whole area of farm safety and to bring more focus to it from within the organisation,” he said.
The IFA president recalled his own experiences on the farm with his father, where no matter what job he and his son would be attending to on the farm, he would ask himself “what could go wrong here?” as they approached the job. He added that this mindset had always stayed with him.
The IFA president admitted that it was a mindset change that was needed when it came to the whole issue of farm safety.
“One of the areas that has been identified is to involve more farmers who can learn from each other rather than from an executive, or whoever else, lecturing them,” he continued.
The IFA president also pointed out that he had noticed himself, in his own efforts to address farm safety locally, that through the various discussion groups where members went on to each other’s farms and “showed no mercy”, the mindset changed and the issue of safety was realised.
“Very often farmers get so used to looking at something that’s not right it becomes the norm; then when someone new comes onto your farm they identify the problem straight away,” Healy continued.
He added: “Our health & safety executive is trying to organise this type of work through our branch network; we want to get people in branches to visit each other’s farms and identify what is in their view, not as safe as it should be, and what needs to done.We can spend all the time we like talking about CAP, about Brexit and about beef prices, but the reality is if there is one fatality on a farm all the rest becomes insignificant really. We want to get farm safety into the mindset of people and for them to think farm safety at all times,” he added