A new farm safety project ‘Farm Family CPD’ which will deliver online, multi-generational training free of charge, was launched today (May 31), in Co. Kilkenny.

A European Innovation Partnership (EIP) Project, Farm Family Continuous Professional Develoment (CPD), is funded through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), meaning that the training can be freely accessed by all farming families.

The project hopes to harness the power of the “dinner table chats” to bring about a change in behavioural norms around farm safety, from within the family unit.

It is focused on taking a multi-generational approach to achieve this, believing that by involving all family members, the entire culture around risk management can be improved upon.

Minister of State with responsibility for farm safety Martin Heydon. Source: Agriland

Speaking to Agriland at the launch event, Minister of State at the DAFM with Special Responsibility for Farm Safety Martin Heydon, explained the importance of empowering children as well as adults to highlight hazards on the farm. He said:

“A multi-generational approach is so important because farms are not like building sites or other workplaces. The family home is in the middle of them. So every generation has a role to play in spotting things that aren’t safe.”

Minister Heydon added that the ultimate aim of farm safety projects such as this is to reduce the overall level of risk and create a safer culture among those who work on farms.

“We want to reduce the amount of close calls on farms because statistically we know that the more near misses there are, the more fatal incidents and life changing incidents there will be.

“We need to reduce the amount of them because the Irish farm is still unfortunately, the most dangerous workplace in all of Ireland.”

The launch of the campaign comes as we enter the two most dangerous months of the year in farming, statistically. Bryan Daniels, who hosted the event with his wife Gail at their farm in Kilmoganny, Co. Kilkenny, explained this.

“It’s a busy time of year on the farm, it’s silage season, you’re using a lot of machinery, the kids are off school running around as well, so it’s a time of year to be really aware of safety.”

The project will also be communicating key messages such as this on the platform used to deliver the training to remind farmers of various hazards at different times of the year.

Farm Family CPD training

Speaking at the event, Peter Slattery, farm Family CPD project manager, explained that the training programme will focus on three cohorts: Under 16’s; young adults and adults; and 65+. The first and last of which are statistically, the most vulnerable.

“With school, activities, retirements and so on, it’s going to be very hard to get those people to attend training in any other way than online,” Slattery said.

Farm Family CPD project manager Peter Slattery

Offering the programme online was also desirable as it allows the project to reach those who have the power to manage the risks, in the place where behavioural norms are developed: the home.

“Families all influence each other hugely, they are so fundamental in everything you do, which means those behavioural norms are formed inside the farm gate. So, we have to get in there,” Slattery explained.

Although there may have been concern in the past about offering training of this sort virtually, those involved in the project say it has been met with the opposite reaction, as farmers are now much more familiar, and comfortable using technology.

“There were many downsides to Covid but there was one silver lining which came with all our work practices switching online and our new familiarity with I.T.,” Slattery said.

He concluded by adding that the project will listen to those who participate in it and take their feedback on board.:

“Evaluation will point is in the right direction, we have as much to learn from the people who are not getting involved too, so we’ll keep that in mind.”