Teagasc in the process of recruiting second farm safety specialist

Teagasc is in the process of recruiting its second farm safety specialist, due to the workload becoming “quite onerous“, the director of Teagasc, Prof. Gerry Boyle, recently said.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week to discuss Teagasc’s financial statements for 2017, he outlined that farm safety is very much part of the authority’s remit through its advisory service.

As well as this, a significant amount of research on the causes of farm accidents – both fatal and otherwise – and the wider issue of farmer health has been carried out in recent years, he added.

Speaking at the committee meeting, he said: “The way we are setup is we have a specialist adviser dedicated completely to farm safety and that person is responsible, first of all, for training up our own advisers around the country; we have about 280 front-line advisors.

That person is responsible for making sure that they are up to speed on all the latest thinking in regard to the reduction of accidents on farms. That person also makes sure that farm safety is on the agenda of all discussion groups on a regular basis.

“We are in the process of recruiting a second specialist, because we think that the workload has become quite onerous for the current specialist,” Prof. Boyle said.

Dr. John McNamara currently serves as Teagasc’s only dedicated health and safety specialist.

Behavioural change

One of the problems that Teagasc has identified – along with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) – is that awareness is one thing, but the challenge is getting farmers to do the things they know they should be doing, Prof. Boyle added.

“That’s why we have been looking very closely at research in terms of behavioural change. What is the underlying behaviour that causes a man or a woman to do something on the farm that they know is hazardous?

There’s a particular concern at the moment with elderly farmers. Unfortunately, a lot of the tragic accidents in recent times with livestock and with machinery have been down to very old farmers – some very old, I’m talking 80 plus – tragically dying in tractor overturns or in accidents with livestock.

“There’s a reason for that and we think it’s pretty obvious. A lot of the young people are getting jobs off-farm, they’re leaving the management of the farm to their elderly relative and that is a particular area that we want to focus on,” Prof. Boyle said.