In the last decade alone, there have been almost 200 deaths on Irish farms. Today, farm safety is one of the most prominent issues in the agricultural and farming sector. More than 1000 injuries occur on farms annually. Even though a very small proportion of the total workforce in Ireland is employed in farming, many fatalities occur in this sector. Besides, almost half of all workforce related deaths last year were on farms. Martin O’ Halloran, Chief Executive at the Health & Safety Authority mentions, “Farms are potentially dangerous workplaces and anything that helps in minimising the danger is a crucial step towards reducing the current unacceptable number of farming related deaths and injuries”. Let’s have a look at a few more farming related facts and figures below:
What Has Been Done: The Farm Safety Action Plan
Farmers are required to comply with the regulations under The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005 to ensure safety on farms. The Act mandates all farmers with more than 3 employees to complete a Safety Statement. Farmers with 3 or less employees must instead follow The Agriculture Code of Practice to meet the duties under the Act. An inspection is conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on candidates and farms chosen based on risk analysis conducted across the country.
An advisory committee of the Board of the Health & Safety Authority known as Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee developed The Farm Safety Action Plan (2013-2015). The Plan sets out the goals and associated actions in relation to improving the safety situation on farms. Furthermore, The new Plan (2016-2018) builds on the successes and activities of the previous Plan. Some of the actions undertaken to achieve these goals set under the Action Plan are listed below:
|1. To achieve cultural behavioural change in health and safety of persons working in the agricultural sector through research, education and training.||1.1 Annual farm safety attitude and behaviour-based survey of Irish farmers to be carried out.
1.2 Continue to promote and provide training on the farm safety risk assessment.
1.3 Promote the safety elements of pesticide training and sprayer testing
1.4 Carry out research on information gathered from HSA farm safety visits (inspections) and fatal accident investigations.
1.5 Devise and transmit monthly farm safety and health themes, through texts, email, and social media by FSP member organisations.
1.6 Promote and encourage good farm safety behaviours, particularly around tractors and machinery, livestock, slurry, and work at height.
|2. To develop programmes that will foster innovative approaches and deliver engineering solutions to reduce the risks to persons working in agriculture.||2.1 Publish guidance on: Slurry storage design and management, Farmyard design & Farm building design
2.2 Publish guidance on the maintenance of farm buildings and structures
2.3 Drive programmes to achieve annual awards for safety innovations.
2.4 Publish guidance on the selection and management of contractors.
|3. To reduce the level of death and injury arising from tractor and machinery use||3.1 Work with tractor /machinery manufacturers in ensuring that tractors/machinery continue to be fitted with safety devices to assist in safe operation.
3.2 Work with the farming community to ensure that training is available for tractor and machinery operators.
3.3 Finalise and analyse the survey on tractors, machinery and farm equipment so that improvements are identified and actions taken.
3.4 Use the major agricultural shows and events, wherever possible, to demonstrate safe and best practices.
3.5 Develop pop-up farm safety messages and reminders on websites when buyers are searching for tractors and machinery.
3.6 Promote compliance with the new revised Standards for Agricultural Vehicles (RSA, effective 1st January 2016).
|4. To establish initiatives to reduce the level of death and injuries arising from working with livestock.||4.1 Produce advisory leaflets covering the following areas: Safe handling of livestock, Reading the danger signals of livestock, A guide for visitors to farms, particularly their interactions with livestock, Warning signs
4.2 Encourage the development of safety training courses for livestock handling.
4.3 Promote and provide training on the star rating system as it relates to safe working with animals.
4.4 Promote the application of state-of-the-art livestock handling facilities at marts and other public spaces.
|5. To ensure high standards of health and safety are adopted in forestry and timber work on farms.||5.1 Highlight particular risks associated with forestry work involving harvesters, forwarders and timber haulage
5.2 Publish guidance on the obligations of the forestry works manager in regard to arrangements for the selection and monitoring of good health and safety standards of forestry contractors.
5.3 Promote and provide recognised training in safe use of chainsaws.
5.4 Develop specific guidance on risks associated with electricity during tree-felling operations, incorporating the duties of the landowner, forestry works manager and forestry contractor
|6. To implement programmes for the protection of health and wellbeing of persons, including vulnerable groups, working in agriculture.||6.1 Include farmer health issues in all major national seminars and events.
6.2 Encourage first aid training and the development of an emergency plan for farmers.
6.3 Take action to establish the collection of data on accidents and ill health in agriculture within the health service.
6.4 Sponsor further research in the area of occupational health in agriculture.
6.5 Support research on farmers’ health in the following areas: musculoskeletal disorders and noise-induced hearing loss.
6.6 Produce a farmer self-assessment stress inventory and guidance on stress management.