Farm Ireland

Friday 19 January 2018

Atrocious safety record is a scandal

Action is needed to tackle the shocking incidence of death and injury on Irish farms. This was the general consensus from last week's health and safety seminar in Athy, Co Kildare.

With a chilling toll of 18 deaths on Irish farms already this year, including two children, it really is time to get serious about farm safety.

But although the way the message is delivered alternates from the stick to the carrot approach, one thing is certain -- it's still not hitting home.

At last year's seminar, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) warned that stricter enforcement was on the way, but the linking of farm safety to single farm payment penalties has been flatly rejected by farm organisations.

The HSA is now warning of more inspections and stricter enforcements. And isn't that just what every farmer needs -- more inspections?

Clearly, our atrocious record for farm safety has nothing to do with a lack of knowledge or experience. Research shows that 90pc of farmers who were injured on a power shaft had experience of working with a PTO. In 80pc of cases, the PTO shaft was unguarded at the time.

Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle hit the nail on the head when he said farmers had to be convinced of the need to change work practices.

He said that until such time that health and safety was seen as a core part of managing the farm, we're really at nothing.

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It has been included as part of the Department of Agriculture's Dairy Efficiency Programme and Professor Boyle suggested that more use could be made of discussion groups as a vehicle to communicate the message.

This would also target the worst offenders for compliance with safety regulations: dairy farmers.

The HSA has warned that inspectors visiting farms will adopt a "zero tolerance" attitude to breaches of the farm safety code.

Perhaps it's now time for farmers themselves to have zero tolerance for anything that could potentially bring this unnecessary heartbreak to their door.

Irish Independent