Michael Noble from Mental Health Ireland spoke about how farming can be a very stressful occupation and that sadly this stress often resulted in farmers taking their own lives when they felt unable to cope.
He spoke about the importance of building resilience and the ability to cope with all aspects of modern life. Attendees also heard about the importance of being aware of the signs of stress, in themselves or others, so that action can be taken in time to reach out and manage the stress.
‘Farmers need to take absolute responsibility’
Making the opening address, Minister for Employment and Small Business, Pat Breen TD said that since becoming Minister and being given the occupational safety and health brief, he has become acutely aware of the huge risks in farming and of the dreadful results of farm accidents.
“It is a cause of great sadness when notifications of workplace accidents reach my desk, especially when it involves a farm accident, which are more often than not deaths to family members on their own farm.
“Only by real engagement and taking absolute responsibility can farmers improve safety and health standards and prevent the great loss of life that currently blights the sector.
“I urge the farming organisations and representative bodies to continue working to raise awareness. I want to use this opportunity to restate my commitment to working with you all to achieve a sustained reduction in accidents,” he said.
‘Farm safety and health is no longer new’
Martin O’Halloran, CEO of the HSA told the conference that farm safety and health is no longer new, farmers, sector stakeholders and farming organisations are becoming more aware of the need to manage safety and health like any other element of the farming enterprise.
“We have produced extensive guidance and information and made it easily accessible to farmers. However this cannot be seen as the end result.
“We must ensure their use in everyday work by all farmers, once that happens real changes in approach will yield significant improvements.”
“Farmers must make safety and health integral to regular work practices”
Speaking about the importance of making safety and health integral to regular work practices, Professor Tom Kelly, Teagasc Director of Knowledge Transfer stated: “It is important that everyone is working on improving the engagement of farmers and ensuring that they see safety and health as a critical element of what they need to do in every task.
The current Department of Agriculture Food and Marine grant schemes needing ‘Code of Practice’ training or engagement in a knowledge transfer group provides incentives for farmers to up-skill in farm safety and health management.”
Professor Jim Phelan, Chairman of the Farm Safety Partnership told the conference that farming technology has come a long way but so has safety and health in farming, it is clear that it is becoming main-stream.
“We see signs on farm gates, high-vis vests, loads being well secured and safety is fast becoming the norm.
“Sadly, simple mistakes still cause loss of life or lifelong injury. We will continue to carry out research to find new ways to influence a change of culture so that the risks are managed out of farming practice.”