All too often, the first reaction to the sight of loose roof sheeting moving in the wind is to get up on the roof and fasten it safely so it doesn’t break away and cause damage or injure someone.

This instinct to protect others and property is often at the expense of a farmer’s own safety.

Falls account for more than one in 10 fatalities on Irish farms and a significant number of serious injuries, some of which are life changing. Therefore, measures must be in place to ensure that working at heights is carried out safely.

Preparation for working at height

As Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for farm safety, I am urging you to review the condition of buildings on your farm as soon as possible and carry out the necessary maintenance and repairs.

It is much safer to carry out this work in calm, dry weather than as a knee-jerk reaction during bad weather.

Farming continues to be the most dangerous workplace in Ireland, but this doesn’t have to be the case. It cannot be repeated too often, the importance of taking out and reviewing your Farm Safety Code of Practice Risk Assessment regularly and particularly before undertaking new or infrequent tasks.

The aim of this exercise is to ensure that all hazards are assessed, and measures are put in place to eliminate or minimise risks of injury or death.

When it comes to working at heights, even a small job that takes a few minutes can put you at serious risk of injury or death.

If undertaking the work yourself, try to carry out as much of the work as possible from the ground. If you require height, make sure you use appropriate equipment like a Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP). This will help ensure that the work is done safely and efficiently.

Consideration should be given to hiring a competent contractor to carry out the maintenance work.

As the safety of contractors working on your farm is your responsibility, check that the contractor has the relevant SOLAS Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) training card before carrying out work other than minor repairs on fragile and cladded roofs.

As farmers, you are the most valuable and irreplaceable asset on your farm, and without you, there is no farm. You must keep this in mind every day as you go about your farm work.