'Linking farm safety to EU payments will save lives' - HSA chief inspector
HSA chief inspector calls for 'positive' measures to tackle farm safety issues
Farm safety needs to be linked to CAP payments in order to save lives, a leading farm safety expert has urged.
"There has to be some positive link between farm safety and CAP," Pat Griffin, senior inspector at the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), told the Farming Independent.
"It shouldn't be about penalising but a measure could be put in place that a farmer would only have access to CAP if they have done farm safety training or they could get a bonus if they do training," he said.
"There's so much talk of food safety and the environment but the poor, stressed out farmer doesn't seem to matter. It has to be discussed at EU level because it has the potential to save lives."
Eleven farmers have died in workplace accidents this year. It was 12 deaths this time last year.
Four deaths involved tractors and vehicles, three due to livestock, one due to machinery, one due to a fall from height, one drowning death and one forestry death. Two accidents occurred in Tipperary, the others happened in counties Cavan, Galway, Kilkenny, Meath, Sligo, Waterford, Westmeath and Monaghan.
The Integrated Farm Statistics Regulation adopted by the EU last week will require all member states to submit detailed information on farm accident figures and deaths on an annual basis.
Mr Griffin welcomed the move but feels the time has come to create a positive link between farm safety and CAP payments if Europe really wants to improve its efforts to save lives.
Mr Griffin said the new farm statistics regulation figures will give a more accurate representation of farm deaths which he feels could be as high as 1,000 a year on European farms but that not all are recorded.
"According to Eurostat figures there are usually 500-520 farm deaths in the EU each year but you have to remember that countries like Bulgaria, Greece and Spain submit zero fatalities each year because they don't record deaths of the self-employed or farm workers who don't have contracts.
"Nordic countries only record the deaths of the working age, so they don't submit the deaths of under-18s or retired people.
"I feel there could be up to 1,000 deaths a year on farms in Europe and I'll stand by that until I'm disproven," he stated.
"It's amazing how Europe can tell you how many calves were born last year but they can't give you a figure on farm deaths.
"That 1,000 is only the tip of the iceberg, it doesn't take into account the amount of people who are living with injuries or long-term health effects of farm accidents."
With the drought predicted to continue until the end of the month, Mr Griffin warned that July is normally the "deadliest" month for farm deaths and that the drought could aggravate that.
"July is traditionally the worst month for farm deaths and the drought could potentially put farmers under more pressure if they're not thinking straight or not keeping their mind on the job.
"Farmers need to see the long view of things and realise that things always turn and the weather will come around again," he said.