Farmers must meet legal obligations to ensure safety of workers on farms
Health and Safety on a farm should not be treated lightly. Too often, farm accidents occur causing death or serious injury. As we enter the silage season with increased activity on the farm, it's time to set out the law regarding health and safety in agriculture.
Farmers, like every other employer, have a legal duty to provide a safe place of work, so far as it is practicable. This obligation is imposed by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. This Act, together with various Regulations, sets out the minimum legal health and safety requirements of farmers. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on one such requirement: the obligation of farmers to prepare and implement a Safety Statement or a Risk Assessment Document.
A Safety Statement is required where a farmer employs more than three workers on the farm. A farmer may instead complete a Risk Assessment Document where he has three or less employees. Both documents set out the key dangers that may cause death or serious injury on the farm, although a Safety Statement is much more detailed. The 2005 Act clearly sets out the specific areas that must be covered in a Safety Statement.
All those who work on the farm must be aware of the contents of the Safety Statement or Risk Assessment Document. This includes family members, casual workers, contractors and anyone else who is providing a service or selling goods on the farm.
The Inspector from the Health and Safety Authority can inspect your Safety Statement or Risk Assessment Document and, if it is found wanting, can direct that you make amendments within a certain period of time or you may face prosecution.
It is not enough to just draft a Safety Statement or Risk Assessment Document, you must also implement them. The documents should also be revised and updated every year. Teagasc, on their website, provide a good Safe System at Work Plan that can assist in revising these documents. The Code of Practice for Preventing Injury and Occupational Health in Agriculture outlines steps on how to complete these documents and also provides a significant amount of information on health and safety on the farm in general.
There are also regulations that set out the minimum legal requirements where there are children or young people on the farm. Furthermore, there are regulations setting out the legal duties placed on farmers who commission the carrying out of maintenance or construction of buildings on farms.
Regardless of how big or small your farm is, be it dairy or otherwise, accidents can happen so why not take all the steps you can to prevent them while also making sure you are legally compliant?
* The information in this article is intended as a general guide only. While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information provided, Deirdre Flynn does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising.