Could CAP reform hold the key to reducing farm fatalities in Ireland?

The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020 could help reduce the number of farm fatalities in Ireland.

This was one of the possibilities talked about during a meeting facilitated by Fianna Fail Senator Paul Daly to discuss the issue of farm safety in Leinster House recently.

Linking measures to improve farm safety to EU payments was just one of the ideas mooted as to how Ireland and Europe could reduce the number of fatalities in agriculture.

A delegation including: Peter Gohery, Embrace FARM; Vincent Nally, Irish Rural Link; Shane Nolan, the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI); and Jim Dockery, Farm Relief Services (FRS) met with Prof. Peter Lundqvist from Sweden.

Swedish programme

Prof. Lundqvist detailed Sweden’s journey, when a programme was introduced solely to tackle the level of fatalities in the agricultural sector.

farm safety
L-R: Vincent Nally, Irish Rural Link; Shane Nolan, the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI); Peter Gohery, Embrace FARM; Prof. Peter Lundqvist from Sweden; and Jim Dockery, Farm Relief Services (FRS)
This programme centered around in excess of 150 supervisors – not experts – being trained for a period of four days and tasked with communicating the importance of farm safety to farmers in a variety of ways.

The supervisors were mainly part-time farmers; all of them had to be knowledgeable about farming. These supervisors were then able to build up a support network among themselves to share information on how best to communicate with farmers.

These supervisors would then visit individual farms and discuss farm safety with the entire family, not just the farmer; the aim of this visit was to empower the family to identify farm safety issues on their own farm and to come up with ways to minimise the level of risks.

A big emphasis was placed on face-to-face communication throughout the programme, which began with the training of the supervisors in 2008-2009. The programme was also set to target small and medium-sized farms.

Other communication methods such as farm walks, marketing events, focus / study groups were also utilised alongside the individual visits. Various resource material was also made available to farmers.

As this work progressed, zero work-related fatalities were recorded in Swedish agriculture in 2013. However, funding for the programme was then diverted elsewhere and it came to a premature halt.

The frequency of fatalities in Swedish agriculture rose to eight in 2014 and seven – including three children – in 2015.

Risks

The Swedish professor outlined that it is important for farmers to break the mentality that taking risks is acceptable in modern agriculture.

“Farmers working in agriculture are always exposed to risks. You have to take risks all the time; working alone; handling all kinds of issues; so it’s part of your normal identity.

“It’s often encouraged by others. When you grow up on a farm, or you work together with others, you think you have to take risks. You save time if you take risks – if you don’t have an injury,” he said.

Prof. Lundqvist added that farmers need to be mindful of how the risks they take could potentially affect others.

Time to get professional in agriculture?

Meanwhile, he explained that it is necessary for a farmer – as a business person – to make a clear distinction on a farm between their workplace and their home.

“Maybe we should have a fence. A farm should be a home, where you feel you can relax; but, you should also have the professional farm.

You go out there and you work safe; you’ve never seen anyone working on a construction site go in there without having a helmet. Maybe when a farmer starts working they should put on a reflective vest or something.

“I think we really have to try to think about what we can do to change the attitudes; it has to be more professional – even on a small farm,” he said.