There is an increasing focus on health and safety at farm level, as the number of fatalities on Irish farms continues to increase.

Provisional figures show that 12 deaths occurred on Irish farms by May 31 – more than double the number of fatalities recorded during the first five months in 2016.

And, according to Teagasc’s Kevin Connolly, “a safe work place is the bare minimum that is required by a lot of employees at this stage”.

The Teagasc financial specialist spoke at today’s ‘Managing Labour on your Dairy Farm Conference’, where he said: “We are all aware of the record that is building on farms around health and safety and it’s not good.

“The number of injuries and fatalities doesn’t seem to be decreasing,” he said.

Connolly said that taking on an employee can definitely make a difference in terms of the labour load, but he said that potential employers can’t forget about health and safety.

“An employer must focus on health and safety, as there is another person using machinery and interacting with livestock on the farm.

They need to take a very serious look at the health and safety issues on their farm and that could be the difference in retaining and losing an employee.

“There will be costs associated, but they are very important for making the working environment safer for all concerned,” he said.

The Teagasc representative also said that health and safety training is vital.

“There is no point in having the equipment and practices in place if the people don’t do the right thing when they are carrying out operations.”

Connolly added: “It’s very obvious from talking to people who are working on farms that people are less likely to tolerate unsafe working environments.

“From the point of view of retaining an employee, you need to make sure that you are operating a safe working environment,” he said.

“Employees are less likely to put up with unsafe practices. The first fright they get, they might go off somewhere else,” he said.