Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Exclusive: Hogan says farmers who break farm safety rules face losing EU grants

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois
EU Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters/Francois
John Downing

John Downing

Irish farmers who break farm safety rules will risk losing their EU grants, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has said.

Mr Hogan said he was reluctantly coming to this conclusion in the light of the large toll of deaths from farm accidents in 2016. He said the rate of serious workplace accidents was reducing in Ireland and across the EU – but no such progress was happening in farming where 21 Irish people were killed in 2016.

The Commissioner said progress was being made and two EU-backed schemes were, TAMS 2 and the Green Cert, were laying great emphasis on farm safety, especially for young farmers.

“But we have to do more in the light of the recent accidents and heart-breaking tragedies which have hit so many farm families in 2016,” Mr Hogan told the Irish Independent.

The EU Commissioner said farmers can already lose grant money if they breach pollution control rules or other issues like animal welfare.

He said it is time to consider including farm safety in the so-called “cross compliance” regime to help preserve human life.

The Health and Safety Authority (HAS) last week revealed that 21 people died in farm accidents in 2016. It was down from a record high of 30 fatalities in 2014 but an increase of the 2015 death toll of 18.

HAS chief executive, Martin O’Halloran, welcomed the Commissioner’s comments saying the EU’s main safety focus has been on non-farm sectors up to now. He said farming was just 6pc of the workforce but accounted for 50pc of workplace deaths – and many of them involved elderly people.

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“It is completely disproportionate and it is time to take some radical action like zoning hazardous parts of farms and excluding elderly and very young people from these dangerous places,” Mr O’Halloran said.

Commissioner Hogan said the changes will form part of exploratory talks opening this year on a new farm price regime which will apply until after 2020.

These talks will enmesh with the ongoing Brexit negotiation which are due to open at the end of March and take two years.

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