Farming faces 'massive challenges' on safety, warns Teagasc

John McNamara (far right), Teagasc Health & Safety Specialist discusses ATV with farmers at a recent Teagasc and HSA farm safety event in Clonakilty. Photo O’Gorman Photography
John McNamara (far right), Teagasc Health & Safety Specialist discusses ATV with farmers at a recent Teagasc and HSA farm safety event in Clonakilty. Photo O’Gorman Photography
Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle

Claire Fox and Ciaran Moran

The farming sector faces "massive challenges" in reducing its level of work-related fatalities and injuries, Teagasc director Gerry Boyle has warned.

He told the Farming Independent that he didn't believe the establishment of a dedicated farm safety body was the answer to reducing farm accidents.

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"There's already an awful lot of activity between us and the HSA in terms of farm safety," he said.

"There are massive challenges that go beyond the institutional structures. Jobs get rushed on farms. There are probably too many elderly farmers still engaged in farm work like driving tractors and managing cattle."

Mr Boyle added that there was still "room for improvement" in terms of communication around farm safety and a need for more resources both in Teagasc and HSA.

His comments came as Pat Breen, Minister of State with responsibility for farm safety, announced that he would be asking the HSA to present a new farm safety plan as a matter of urgency. Four specific recommendations have been identified by Government departments on farm safety.

These include a requirement for farm safety training under CAP 2021 and farm safety training certification by dairy co-ops.

Risks

Minister Breen said: "Farmers must take responsibility for their own safety. Research has highlighted the significant risk associated with not getting help with difficult jobs, especially on small farms.

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"Farmers on larger farms are more likely to take risks by not routinely using safety gear. The likelihood that a farmer will fail to use such gear is nearly three times as high on a larger farm of more than 100ha than on a smaller farm of less than 20ha," he said.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil have proposed creating a dedicated farm safety agency.

Fianna Fáil senator Paul Daly said a standalone farm safety agency would build trust with the farming community and implement long-term policies and programmes.

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