Joint initiative promoting farm safety and health renewed for 3 years

A joint initiative promoting farm safety and health between Teagasc and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has been renewed for a further three years.

The ‘Joint Initiative Agreement’ aims to provide safety and health research, training and advisory support to farmers.

According to the HSA, the renewal of the joint initiative comes at a “challenging time for farming” – due to expansion in the sector and an ageing farmer population.

“The agriculture sector, which represents between 5% and 6% of the workforce, often accounts for up to 50% of work related deaths.

In 2017, out of a total of 47 workplace deaths, 24 farmers died in work related accidents – with 14 being aged 65 or older.

The joint initiative – in place since 2005 when the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act was enacted – was established to make farm safety and health more accessible to farmers through a simplified ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’, the HSA explained.

As well as this, research on farm accident levels conducted by the Teagasc National Farmer Survey will be finalised in 2018. A jointly-funded study on the usefulness of discussion groups in promoting farm safety is also underway, it added.

The HSA confirmed that – as part of the joint initiative – training on use of the ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’ will continue to be provided by Teagasc and Agricultural Consultants, and that this training is a requirement for farmers looking to secure TAMS II funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Increased awareness

In welcoming the renewal of the initiative, HSA CEO Martin O’Halloran outlined that it has led to increased awareness; but, that must now lead to safer work practices.

The approach to farm safety and health is generally well understood by farmers and the broader farming community; but, this awareness must now be matched by real actions on the ground.

“Farmers face a wide variety of hazards and risks on a daily basis and must proactively manage them to ensure a safe and healthy working life,” he said.

Meanwhile, the director of Teagasc – Professor Gerry Boyle – stated that a specific emphasis will be placed on work organisation to cut farmer workloads on its advisory programmes in 2018.

“Working long hours and hurrying have been shown to be major contributory factors in farm accident causation.

“This may also be a contributory factor to the rise in accidents among older farmers in recent years”, he added.

Farmers were also reminded that, by the end of this year, they must complete the new revised version of the ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice – Risk Assessment’ document; the new document was released last year.