Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Zero tolerance safety stance taken by HSA

On-the-spot enforcement orders given

Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

FARMERS who are found to be non-compliant with health and safety measures on their farms now face on-the-spot enforcement orders.

Inspectors are to adopt a "zero tolerance stance" where basic safety measures have not been implemented, the chief executive of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has warned.

Martin O'Halloran told a national seminar on health and safety in Athy, Co Kildare, that the number of inspections had been increased and the HSA had already put in place a specialised team dealing solely with agriculture.

"If an inspection uncovers an unguarded PTO for example, we will issue an improvement order," he warned.

However, the HSA has abandoned its suggestion that farmers' single farm payment should be conditional on compliance with the safety code, a proposal that did not get the backing of farmer representatives.

"I think the view is that we want to improve awareness and change the behaviour of farmers," Mr O'Halloran said.

"We did discuss that suggestion with the farming organisations, but they, through their leadership, are putting their shoulders to the wheel and a farmer is more likely to listen to another farmer than they are to me.

"This year already, 18 people have been killed in accidents on farms and it's very easy to talk about numbers, but these are people, with families and their communities who are going to be grieving for many years.

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"The number does not include the people who were badly injured and whose families will be dealing with that for years to come."

Research carried out by Teagasc suggests that three-quarters of Irish farms have now achieved satisfactory safety standards.

But those who have not are predominantly in the dairy sector. Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle explained this was because many dairy farmers worked excessively long hours and were over-worked and "too tired to pay attention to health and safety issues".

"Farmers have to be convinced of the need to change practices on their farms, and health and safety has to be seen as a core part of managing the farm," Professor Boyle said.

He welcomed the inclusion of health and safety by the Department of Agriculture as part of its Dairy Efficiency Programme. He said dairy discussion groups also had an important role to play in communicating the message to farmers.

  • Full report from the Health and Safety conference, page 6

Irish Independent