Farmers won’t be fined over farm safety issues, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney has said.

Speaking at a press briefing in Dublin, he said that while farming accounts for just 6% of the workforce yet 60% of workplace fatalities, farmers should not have their financial farm supports deducted because of farm safety issues.

He said he hopes that 2015 will be the year of farm safety and there needs to be a measurable change in how farmers deal with safety on farms.

“We have to change attitudes.”

He said farm safety in relation to children was especially important and he questioned whether or not it is appropriate for a 16 year old to be driving a tractor, for instance, with no appropriate training.

He suggested that grant aid programmes contain a commitment to farm safety, but he said there are more effective ways of dealing with farm safety issues than penalising farmers.

Last year saw the highest level of farm deaths in recent years with 30 people being killed in farming-related accidents. Recent figures also show that 58% of farm deaths are happening in dairy farming which makes up just 17% of the farming sector.

Pat Griffin, an inspector with the HSA told a recent Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting on agriculture that with quotas being removed and more farmers going into expansion mode, the HSA is facing a difficult time in helping with farm safety on these farms.

Hogan would rather not impose safety fines on farmers (But isn’t ruling it out)

European Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has said that he would rather not impose penalties on farmers over farm safety issues, but is not ruling it out.

Hogan said he is very interested in seeing Member States making progress in relation to farm safety. He said he was glad to see that Minister Coveney has introduced a scheme from monies left from the Rural Development Programme in an attempt to address the issue.

However, Commissioner Hogan also said recently that he is not ruling out during the course of his mandate having a look at cross compliance issues in relation to farm safety.

“I would prefer not to have to go done that road. We will monitor what is happing.

“We are very conscious of the fact we need to see some Member State activity in this very important issue,” he said.