Focus on safety training as minister opens HSA ‘Ploughing’

Initiatives aimed at reducing accidents and calling on farmers to get safety training were the key focus at the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) stand today as Minister Breen formally kicked off ‘Ploughing’ proceedings.

Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection Pat Breen today officially opened the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) exhibit at the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

At the event the minister also launched a new HSA guide on the ‘Safe use of Quad Bikes’ and announced a new schedule for training on the revised ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’.

The HSA guide on the ‘Safe use of Quad Bikes’ encourages owners to get training, use protective equipment such as head protection, and to plan routes.

The revised ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’ was published in June 2017. It provides farmers with a new risk assessment document that helps identify hazards and implement controls that reduce accidents.

Minister Breen said that training is central to improving farm safety.

Formal training

Speaking at the opening, he said: “The use of large and powerful machinery on our farms is widespread and has made farming more productive.

“However, it does concern me greatly that many farmers are working with these machines having never received formal training.

Over half of all fatal accidents on farms involve vehicles or machinery. It is possible to operate farm vehicles, such as quad bikes, safely – but adequate training is essential.

“So, my message is clear. Get trained on how to use your vehicles and machinery and on how to use the ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’. A small investment in time makes your farm a safer place for you, your workers and your family and might ultimately save a life.”

Dr. Sharon McGuinness, chief executive of the HSA also spoke at the opening.

She said: “In 2017 alone there were four fatal accidents involving quad bikes. The use of these vehicles is becoming more common on farms and there is concern that wider use will lead to more accidents.

These vehicles are designed to navigate rough terrain and be used in adverse weather conditions – but these factors can affect the stability of the vehicles.

“I would echo the Minister’s call to the farming community. Get training and put safety at the core of everything you do on the farm.”

Importance of the code

Prof. Gerry Boyle, director of Teagasc, spoke about the importance of using the ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’.

He said: “The ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’ details practical methods for working safely on farms. It was developed in partnership with the HSA and deals with the reality of farm hazards.

“It is important to emphasise this is not a paper exercise; it is practical and our half-day training course reflects that.”

Copies of the ‘Safe use of Quad Bikes’ guide are freely available at and from the HSA exhibit at (Block 4; Row 14; Stand 299).

Farmers should contact local providers for details on quad bike training.

Farmers are advised to contact their local Teagasc office or visit for details on the new training schedule for the ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’.