The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) carried out 400 ‘agricultural, forestry and fishery’-related inspections/investigations in 2021 – the same year that a 50% reduction in farming-related fatalities also occurred.

But, according to the HSA’s annual report for 2021, the number of inspections fell by more than 50% when compared to the safety authority’s agricultural activity in 2020.

HSA drop in inspections

The language used to describe numbers of investigations and/or inspections in 2020 and 2021 annual reports differ.

Number of inspections/investigations in 2021

In the 2021 annual report, the HSA indicated that a total of ‘400 inspections/investigations’ were carried out.

However, when compared to the 2020 annual report, we see that the number of investigations and inspections are listed separately, and there is a big difference between the two years.

Number of inspections and investigations in 2020

In 2020, 836 inspections were carried out, while 61 investigations also took place.

In 2021, the HSA carried out three intensive inspection campaigns, which focussed on the management of risks associated with: safe livestock handling; tractors and machinery; and working at height.

In the manufacturing sector, there was a “continued specific focus on meat-processing plants and food-processing plants, with inspections carried out in meat-processing plants registered with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. These checked compliance with occupational safety and health (OSH) and Covid-19 Work Safely Protocol requirements.

The three campaign areas mirrored those that were prioritised in 2020, although no breakdown of the numbers of inspections per campaign is provided for 2021.


Of the 400 inspections/investigations carried out in 2021, enforcement action was necessary for 241 cases, broken down into: improvement notice or direction; prohibition notice; and written advice.

Economic sectorInspections/
Improvement notice or directionProhibition noticeWritten advice
Agriculture, forestry
and fishing
Source: HSA

Other key highlights in the area of agriculture in 2021, according to the HSA include:

  • The Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee (FSPAC), an advisory committee to the board of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), published its Action Plan for 2021-2024, which aims to reduce the level of fatalities, serious injuries and ill health in the agriculture sector;
  • Major awareness-raising campaigns in relation to agriculture were implemented across a range of media, including TV, radio, print and digital;
  • Specific farm-safety advice issued prior to key events such as the calving season, and silage season;
  • Published A Review of Work-Related Fatalities in Agriculture in Ireland 2011–2020.

A total of 1,109 investigations were completed on foot of accidents and complaints received. Of these investigations, 46 were completed in agriculture, forestry and

There were nine farm fatalities in 2021, a reduction of more than 50% on 2020, when 20 people lost their lives. In the forestry and logging sector, two people were killed in their line of work in 2021, compared to zero in 2020. In total, there were 38 work-related fatalities in 2021 – the lowest figure recorded since the HSA was established more than 30 years ago. For the same period in 2020, that figure was 54.

Forty one online courses were offered by the HSA in 2021, including one that looked at slips, trips and falls in the workplace, and one that provided an introduction to tractor safety. A total of 2,366 took part in the latter, while 2,512 availed of the former.

In terms of completed safety statements, 366 agribusinesses were recorded as doing so in 2021.

Most dangerous sector – HSA

While farming remains “one of the most dangerous sectors” in which to work, the safety authority noted that 2021 recorded the lowest-ever number of work-related fatalities, with 38 reported in total across various sectors.

“While this represents the lowest recorded figure since the authority was established in 1989, we recognise that families, colleagues and communities have been left
devastated as a result of these 38 lives lost in work-related incidents,” HSA CEO, Dr. Sharon McGuinness and chairperson, Tom Coughlan stated in the report.

But, a 50% decline on the 2020 level of fatalities is encouraging, the authority said, adding that it “hopes that this is a sign that the safety message is getting through”.

Eighty-eight percent of inspections were considered routine, in that they
were preselected from the HSA database as they were in high-risk
sectors, according to the report.

Some were targeted as part of intensive inspection campaigns in construction, agriculture, and transportation and storage. Twelve percent of inspections were planned and were following up on previous enforcements taken.

During 2021, the Authority carried out checks on adherence to the Work Safely Protocol with other inspection bodies, including the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Farming remains one of the most dangerous sectors in which to work, but a 50% decline on the 2020 level of fatalities is encouraging and the Authority hopes
that this is a sign that the safety message is getting through.