A member of the Agricultural Panel of Seanad Éireann is calling for a standalone agency to take responsibility for farm safety.

Fianna Fáil Senator Paul Daly was speaking as his farm safety bill makes its way through the upper house of the Oireachtas, which, if it becomes law, would see the establishment of such a body.

“A farm is a dangerous place 365 days a year, but as we enter into the summer months, and there is an upsurge in farming activity and machinery use, it becomes particularly precarious,” warned Daly.

The aim of my bill is the creation of a standalone body focused on improving safety for Irish farmers and their families.

Daly highlighted a key difference between farms and other places of work.

“There are about 140,000 family farms in Ireland, each of which is a place of work.  However, the average farm is very different to other workplaces, in that in very many cases they are also homes where children, working adults and the elderly all live together,” the Co. Westmeath politician highlighted.

He claimed that farmers sometimes put other priorities ahead of farm safety, something he said needed to change.

Year after year the whole farming community continues to be devastated by tragic accidents on farms, many of them involving small children. Managing a farm is very demanding work and unfortunately health and safety concerns often take a back seat when farmers face competing priorities. We need this to change.

According to Daly, an agency devoted solely to farm safety would be more effective then the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), which is currently the body responsible for workplace safety across all economic sectors.

Daly said that the number of farm inspections had declined by one third over the past four years.

“At the moment, the HSA is the state agency responsibility for workplace safety, including farms, yet there are too many tragic fatalities in the sector…Without real accountability it seems that the issue slips between the cracks,” argued Daly.