Linking safety to payments 'will only add to farm pressure'

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) announced that they have been granted permission to hire 11 more inspectors.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) announced that they have been granted permission to hire 11 more inspectors.
George Graham
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Farm organisations remain steadfast that safety should not be linked to payments despite the rising number of accidents and deaths on Irish farms.

Their stance comes as the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) announced that they have been granted permission to hire 11 more inspectors in an effort to curb the amount of farm fatalities, which have now risen to 18 this year.

ICMSA president John Comer told the Farming Independent that linking farm payments to health and safety measures would only increase "the constant pressure" that is already placed on farmers.

"ICMSA doesn't believe that the way to go about addressing the terrible rates of farm deaths and accidents is by adding another layer of inspection, stress and anxiety to the farmer's schedule, which is already notable for huge and intensive workloads for what are increasingly one-person operations," he said.

IFA farm family chairperson Maura Canning believes education rather than linking farm safety to payments is the best way to ensure safety.

"Awareness and education programmes to support farmers to change behaviour are the best way to reduce farm accidents," she said.

"Any link between farm safety and payments will not bring about the sustained behavioural change that is required to make our farms safer and will only add to the stress on farm families."

INHFA president Colm O'Donnell called on the Government to set up an awareness course that all farmers would be obliged to complete as the current safety campaigns were not going far enough.

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"The awareness campaigns haven't worked. All farmers should do an awareness course funded by the Government. In light of recent catastrophes, something more formal needs to be put in place," he said.

Pat Griffin of the HSA said that 2017 is set to be a bad year for farm accidents, as 18 have already died this year and the average number of deaths for a whole year is 20.

"This is going to be a fairly bad year for farm safety. If you look at the last 10 years, we've 197 deaths, that's an average of 20 per year - we're nearly at 20 at this stage already, and the year isn't over. Things need to change and we need to rethink what we're doing."

New farm safety and mental health organisation, Awareness Head to Toe, had its first open day last Saturday in Gorey, Co Wexford. Chairperson and champion sheep shearer George Graham (pictured) said that if a farmer has poor mental health, they will be less concerned with farm safety, and it's important to make farmers aware of this link.

"It's about looking after yourself from the top of your head to your feet. There's a serious lack of services in rural Ireland and without services like the Samaritans, we'd be in dire straits," he said.

"Farmers prefer being talked with rather than down to. There's so much pressure on farmers, and they're always rushing.

"We want to engage with them and make them realise that accidents can happen in a split second on a farm."

Speaking about the issue of farm safety, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said: "While there are many risks in farming, farming does not have to be a dangerous occupation. We must all work together with the single goal of preventing accidents and therefore saving lives and minimising serious injuries.

"Safety must become an ­integral part of farming culture."

Indo Farming

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