IFA president brings farm safety into spotlight at 64th AGM

Farm safety was one of the main topics discussed by Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Joe Healy during his address this morning (Tuesday, January 29) at the organisation’s 64th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in the Irish Farm Centre.

Healy, who pointed to IFA’s new health and safety executive, Willie Sorthall, said the organisation was currently endeavouring to change the “mindset” on Irish farms.

The president’s comments came on the back of a difficult two-week period in Irish agriculture where three farmers – one in Co. Mayo, another in Co. Clare and a third in Co. Roscommon – lost their lives in work-related incidents.

Action plan

The AGM heard that Shorthall, who began his tenure back in September, is currently focused on “stepping up” the IFA’s peer-to-peer branch safety programme this year.

Meanwhile, Healy told those gathered at the Irish Farm Centre today that the IFA had done “a huge amount of work” in relation to farm safety over the years.

“We have organised events and tried to get the whole issue of safety into the mindset of people; we have also set up the full-time executive role to look at the whole area of farm safety and to bring more focus to it from within the organisation,” he added.

The IFA president recalled how his own father, no matter what job he and his son would be attending to on the farm, would ask himself “what could go wrong here?” as they approached the task.

It was to become a mindset that Healy picked up and one that has stayed with him throughout his own life.

Working together

The IFA president also admitted that it was mindset that needed to change when it came to the whole issue of farm safety.

“One of the areas that has been identified is to involve more farmers who can learn from each other rather than from an executive, or whoever else, lecturing them,” he continued.

The IFA president also pointed out that he had noticed himself, in his own efforts to address farm safety locally, that through the various discussion groups where members went on to each other’s farms and “showed no mercy”, the mindset changed and the issue of safety was realised.

“Very often farmers get so used to looking at something that’s not right it becomes the norm; then when someone new comes onto your farm they identify the problem straight away,” Healy continued.

He added: “Willie is trying to organise this type of work through our branch network; we want to get people in branches to visit each other’s farms and identify what is in their view, not as safe as it should be, and what needs to done.”

The focus

The AGM heard that regional development officers and voluntary officers throughout the country had also come on board in a concerted effort to try and make Irish farms a safer place in which to work.

“We can spend all the time we like talking about CAP, about Brexit and about beef prices, but the reality is if there is one fatality on a farm all the rest becomes insignificant really. We want to get farm safety into the mindset of people and for them to think farm safety at all times,” Healy concluded.