The mindset on Irish farms needs to change to protect the health of all who work and live on Irish farms and reverse the current spate of life altering and life ending tragedies, Mairead McGuinness, MEP and Vice President of the European Parliament said in Mullingar at the weekend where she presented the All Ireland Occupational Safety Awards.

“There is undeniably a safety problem on Irish farms,” she said. “And the onus is on all of us who work in farming and within the agricultural sector to do something about it.

“The record this year is so severe with the loss of over 22 lives already. It is time to look more deeply at how we change the current mindset on Irish farms, she said.

“Our biggest asset in Ireland is our family farming structure but we have to ask ourselves is the family farm ethos part of the problem where currently we do not treat it like we do other workplaces in terms of health and safety, with an inclination towards less rigidity in terms of procedures, processes and training.

“This is something which may need to change if lives are to be saved.

“Safety is but one part of the story, health is equally important and here too we need to increase awareness about our health and how our working lives can impact on our health.

“In some ways health and safety can unfairly earn a bad name, arising from excessive bureaucracy in some quarters. We have to acknowledge that but not let it detract from the vital need for health and safety awareness and practice to be inculcated in every workplace,” she said.

McGuinness lauded what she called the “excellent and essential work “ being done by the National Irish Safety Organisation (NISO) and the Northern Ireland Safety Group (NISG) who together hosted the Mullingar awards ceremony.

She said the awards mark the achievement of people who day-to-day carry out what are in many ways mundane tasks in detecting risks, training personnel, enforcing and monitoring good practices and inculcating rather than dictating a safety ethos in the workplace.

NISO and NISG promote best practice and provide training and advice, so as to prevent injury in Irish workplaces and build strong safety cultures. Awards recipients from over 100 organisations attended the ceremony.