HSA launches Farm Safety Action Plan

The Farm Safety Partnership, an advisory committee of the Health and Safety Authority, has published its Farm Safety Action Plan 2016-18.

The new action plan lays out a series of specific actions and priorities for tackling the high rates of illness, injury and death which take place every year on Irish farms.

Farming continues to be the most dangerous sector in which to work, with annual fatalities in recent years as high as 50{b28040870e2dde01f25bc5b483275391226143b34751c4bb8f1feeecaec925a1} of the overall total from a sector that employs just 6{b28040870e2dde01f25bc5b483275391226143b34751c4bb8f1feeecaec925a1} of the workforce.

So far, in 2016, seven people have lost their lives in work-related accidents on farms. From 2011 until 2015, there were 108 fatal accidents on Irish farms. Many thousands more were seriously injured.

According to the report, accidents are most likely to happen in the months of June and July, and often can happen to family members, or farmers themselves. The report notes:  “Deaths in agriculture, unlike many other sectors, generally involve either the farmer or family members, and this includes children and elderly persons.”

A recent analysis of the fatal accidents from 1993 to 2014 found that the majority of fatal accidents occurred between 9am and 6pm with the majority occurring between 11am and 12pm.”

The stated goals of the plan are as follows:

  1. To achieve cultural behavioural change in health and safety of persons working in the agricultural sector through research, education and training.
  2. To develop programmes that will foster innovative approaches and deliver engineering solutions to reduce the risks to persons working in agriculture.
  3. To reduce the level of death and injury arising from tractor and machinery use.
  4. To establish initiatives to reduce the level of death and injuries arising from working with livestock.
  5. To ensure high standards of health and safety are adopted in forestry and timber work on farms.
  6. To implement programmes for the protection of health and wellbeing of persons, including vulnerable groups, working in agriculture.

Welcoming the publication of the action plan, Minister for Employment and Small Business, Pat Breen TD said: “It is appropriate that this action plan has been developed with input from a wide range of key farming stakeholders. We must encourage all farmers to prioritise safety and health on their farms. There is no task so urgent or important to justify risking death or serious injury.

The vast majority of accidents on farms are preventable and levels of awareness within farming communities are high. The key now is for farmers to put safety at the centre of their activities and take just a few minutes each day to think about what they’re doing.

“I know that farming is a very tough job and that farmers can feel isolated and overwhelmed. But this is exactly why it’s vital to set aside some time to make sure an accident doesn’t occur. I urge all farmers to think the unthinkable and Take Five Minutes to do whatever is necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen”.

Speaking after the publication of the plan Jim Phelan, HSA Board member and Chairman of the Farm Safety Partnership said: “This is our second three year action plan and although we’ve seen significant increases in awareness and understanding of the hazards on farms, this is not being borne out by sustained reductions in the number of fatalities occurring each year. Certain hazards are still causing the majority of fatal and serious injury. In particular, working with machinery and livestock must be carried out with greater care.

Make sure the tractor is in perfect working order, that the PTO guard is in place, get the handbrake fixed, be alert for signs of aggressiveness in livestock, stay off fragile roofs – simple steps like these will save lives and prevent serious injuries”.

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