Reduction in safety inspections on farms 'planned strategy' says Minister
Surge in farm safety inspections has not reduced high death rates
The significant reduction in the numbers of farm safety inspections is part of a planned strategy, according to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys.
The agriculture sector, which represents 5pc to 6pc of the workforce, often accounts for up to 50pc of work related deaths.
In 2017, out of a total of 47 workplace deaths, 24 farmers died in work related accidents, with 14 being aged 65 or older.
The planned target of farm inspections was significantly increased in 2010 from 1,500 per year to 3,000 and its impact assessed over the following 5 year period.
However, according to the Minister the increased level of inspection showed no significant reduction in farm deaths.
She said since 2014 the HSA has redirected some of its inspection resources toward engaging directly with farmers on other accident prevention initiatives.
“Research has shown that farmers working in peer to peer groups, such as Knowledge Transfer Groups take on new information, new procedures, and new technology more easily and make more lasting changes in the way they farm when involved with such groups.
“The objective is to bring about sustainable changes to work practices and controlling risk.
Responding to questioning from Fianna Fail Agriculture Spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue she said the reduction of farm inspection numbers from a target of 3,000 to 2,000 for 2018 is a planned strategy by the HSA to allow its team of farm inspectors to offer strong support to the Knowledge Transfer Groups.
During 2017 HSA inspectors were involved with over 100 such Groups, in addition to farm walks, thereby reaching a further 2,000 farmers through such engagements, the Minister said.
The use of Knowledge Transfer Groups will continue in 2018.
Year Number of farm Inspections and Investigations
2018 160 (target 2,000)
In addition, the HSA recently completed a recruitment campaign for 11 inspector posts, 6 of which are field inspection posts and have now been filled. These 6 inspectors will be involved in future farm inspection campaigns thereby helping to ensure that farm inspection targets will be achieved.
In 2018 the HSA has allocated approximately €624,000 for farm safety initiatives. The actual figure expended might vary during the year in response to particular issues that arise in this or other sectors.
These initiatives will involve the organisation of, participation in, or support of a wide range of agriculture related events as well as media coverage.
The Authority will also engage in a number of targeted promotional campaigns through relevant media.
In 2018 the HSA is also carrying out three focused inspection campaigns each of one-month duration. The first focuses on Livestock Handling and is currently under way.
The second campaign on Farm Vehicle Safety will take place in May and the third on Maintenance and Working at a Height will take place in October.
As well these specific campaigns other national campaigns related to vehicle and construction safety will have relevance to the farming sector.