An EU-wide farm health and safety body – made up of organisations from several countries, including Teagasc and the Heath and Safety Authority (HSA) – recently presented its interim findings to senior European officials.

The initiative, known as SACURIMA (Safety Culture and Risk Management in Agriculture) made a number of suggestions on how to improve farm health and safety, taking into account fatal and non-fatal injuries, ill-health, stress and suicide levels among farmers across Europe.

SACURIMA is funded by EU COST (Cooperation in Science and Technology) for four years. It is the first COST action of its kind, focusing on occupational safety and health (OSH) in the agriculture sector.

The SACURIMA network currently has 66 scientists participating from 32 EU COST-affiliated countries and four ‘Near Neighbour’ and international partner countries.

Dr. John McNamara, Teagasc health and safety specialist, serves as the vice-chair of the SACURIMA action, while Pat Griffin, senior inspector with the HSA, is the communications manager for the action.

The action commenced its four-year project in Ireland in 2017, and recently presented its findings to EU officials and farmer organisation representatives.

These included: EU Commissioner for Innovation and Youth Mariya Gabriel; a representative of First Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness; vice-chair of the parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development Daniel Buda; and a representative of EU farmer body COPA COGECA.

The recommendations made in the SACURIMA submission is as follows:

  • Integrate OSH into current and future policies under the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP);
  • Establish a European network for agriculture safety and health;
  • Allocate specific funding for agriculture OSH research in Horizon 2020 / Horizon Europe;
  • Develop and implement OSH education and skills programmes for farmers and workers in the agriculture sector;
  • Improve statistics to reflect the true level of agriculture workplace fatal and non-fatal injury and ill health.

The HSA’s Griffin said that an Irish-produced DVD showing the “appalling consequences of farm injuries and ill health made a strong impact on all persons met by the SACURIMA delegation”.

“This brought home strongly the realisation of the consequences of farm injuries and ill health,” Griffin added.

Resources and materials relating to the SACURIMA action can be found here.

Irish farm accident trends

In a statement, Teagasc also revealed figures relating to Irish farm safety in 2019, quoting figures from the HSA.

To date this year, 16 farm deaths have occurred in Ireland. Of these, 10 of the victims were over 60 years-of-age, while seven were over the age of 70.

The causes of these deaths were attributed to: livestock (6); vehicles or machinery (5); crushing by collapsing object (3); and drowning (2).

Dr. John McNamara said that farmers “should give their safety and that of their families and workers top priority over the winter period”.

“Particular attention needs to be given to the safety of older farmers when working near machinery or livestock,” Dr. McNamara added.