Culture change needed ‘rather than more regulations and inspections’ on farms

A culture change is needed “rather than more rules, regulations and inspections” when it comes to safety on farms, according to Dr. Michael Sheehan, a dairy farmer and emergency medicine doctor from Co. Kerry.

Speaking on Radio Kerry about his recent research paper, ‘Trauma on Farms in the Republic of Ireland’, Dr. Sheehan said that farmers need to “step up and recognise that this is a dangerous occupation [and] there are unacceptable risks being taken”.

“Most people from farms can appreciate that it’s a dangerous workplace at times,” Dr. Sheehan said.

“Farms are often not just a workplace, but a home; a place where children play and where older people are helping or still running the farm.

“If you see yourself doing something unsafe, or you see your neighbour or your friends, call them out on it. They say that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ – a culture change is what’s needed.”

Key findings of the research

Dr. Sheehan’s research paper, which was published during Farm Safety Week last month, shows that agricultural workers suffer more than twice as many non-fatal workplace injuries as workers in other sectors.

The paper was a study of the data collected as part of the Major Trauma Audit at the National Office of Clinical Audit.

The paper, which examines the period 2014-2016, is the first significant study concerning this topic in Ireland.

Key findings include:
  • The median age of patients was 54.5 years; the patients ranged in age from less than one year old to 93 years-of-age;
  • Peaks of attendances occurred at busy times of the year for farmers, in March and July;
  • Most patients arrived on a Monday (16.3%);
  • 33% of paediatric patients presented as a result of a ‘blow’, 26% due to a vehicle incident and 19% as a result of a fall less than 2m;
  • Current data indicates that dairy farming is the most dangerous type of farming in the Republic of Ireland.