New Farm Safety Action Plan aims to save lives on Irish farms

The Farm Safety Partnership, an advisory committee of the Health and Safety Authority, has published a new three-year action plan to save lives and reduce injuries on farms.

The Farm Safety Action Plan 2016-18, lays out a series of specific actions and priorities for tackling the high rates of illness, injury and death on Irish farms.

Farming continues to be the most dangerous sector in which to work with annual fatalities in recent years as high as 50% of the overall total from a sector that employs just 6% of the workforce, figures from the HSA show.

So far this year (as of July 7,) seven people have lost their lives in work-related accidents on farms.

Over the five year period between 2011 and 2015, 106 people were killed on farms and many thousands more seriously injured.

There are several goals set out under the new action plan, which have objectives and actions to achieve.

Included in the actions under the plan are:

  • Appointment of new FBD farm safety lecturer in University College Dublin.
  • Annual farm safety attitude and behaviour-based survey of Irish farmers to be carried out.
  • Review, update and promote the farm safety code of practice as the foundation document for farm health and safety.
  • Promote the use of contracting and employing additional labour units to manage periods of high workload.
  • Initiate, drive and support farm safety media campaigns in national and local media, including an all-island focused campaign.
  • Organise and run an annual national farm safety conference on critical issues such as tractors and machinery, livestock and working at height.
  • Drive programmes to achieve annual awards for safety innovations.
  • Consider the establishment of a mandatory safety test system for tractors.
  • Promote and provide recognised training in safe use of chainsaws.
  • Visit primary and secondary schools to give safety talks and increase awareness of safe farming practices.

Welcoming the publication of the action plan, Minister for Employment and Small Business, Pat Breen said that it is appropriate that this action plan has been developed with input from a wide range of key farming stakeholders.

“We must encourage all farmers to prioritise safety and health on their farms. There is no task so urgent or important to justify risking death or serious injury.

“The vast majority of accidents on farms are preventable and levels of awareness within farming communities are high.

“The key now is for farmers to put safety at the centre of their activities and take just a few minutes each day to think about what they’re doing.”

I know that farming is a very tough job and that farmers can feel isolated and overwhelmed. But this is exactly why it’s vital to set aside some time to make sure an accident doesn’t occur.

“I urge all farmers to think the unthinkable and Take Five Minutes to do whatever is necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Also speaking after the publication of the plan was Jim Phelan, HSA Board member and Chairman of the Farm Safety Partnership.

He said that this is the HSA’s second three-year action plan and although the HSA has seen significant increases in awareness and understanding of the hazards on farms, this is not being borne out by sustained reductions in the number of fatalities occurring each year.

“Certain hazards are still causing the majority of fatal and serious injury. In particular, working with machinery and livestock must be carried out with greater care.

“Make sure the tractor is in perfect working order, that the PTO guard is in place, get the handbrake fixed, be alert for signs of aggressiveness in livestock, stay off fragile roofs – simple steps like these will save lives and prevent serious injuries,” he said.

Farmers and people working in farming can download the full action plan from the HSA website.