Safety certs should be key to funds

Ken Whelan

All farmers applying for a farm payment should have to show they have a completed a health and safety certificate, just as they have to show their agricultural credentials, a well-known rugby player has urged.

Simon Best, the former captain of the Ulster rugby team and a beef farmer in Newry, Co Down, told the All Island Farm Safety Conference that one of the ways of dealing with the horrendous loss of life on family farms was to make the safety certificates a key measure.

Mr Best told the packed conference in Monaghan that he was not "having a pop" at the farm payment system but making what he believed to be a reasonable proposal.

"If you have to know where every spoonful of slurry goes on a farm to qualify for the farm payment, then a farm health and safety qualification could also be made mandatory for the payment," the former rugby player said.

Safety was an issue on every farm in Ireland and farmers across the island needed to develop a "single common goal" to tackle it as distinct from talking about the common ground on farm safety between the two jurisdictions on the island, he argued.

So far this year there have been 19 fatalities on farms in Ireland, including four deaths on farms in Northern Ireland. The main causes of these deaths were machinery, falls from farm buildings, livestock and slurry pit incidents.

The Health and Safety Authority's (HSA's) Pat Griffin backed the idea of introducing annual farm safety courses for farmers as part of their farm payment entitlements.

"Farmers could do half-day courses run by Teagasc say on a wide variety of on farm safety issues which would have to be certified and produced when applying for the farm payment," said Mr Griffin.

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"There is no shortage of safety courses which could be undertaken by farmers as part of their farm payment application obligations," he added.

Farmers who want to seek funds under TAMS II have to complete a safety training course, he said.

He said the attitude of "it will never happen to me" has to be abandoned.

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