Teagasc and HSA renew joint initiative to promote farm safety and health

Friday 12th January

Teagasc and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) have today signed a ‘Joint Initiative Agreement’ to promote farmer safety and health for the next three years. The initiative aims to provide safety and health research, training and advisory support to farmers.

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 5 to 6 percent 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’.

During 2018 research on farm accident levels conducted by the Teagasc National Farmer Survey will be finalised. A jointly funded study on the usefulness of discussion groups in promoting farm safety is also underway.

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. Completion of the training is also a requirement for farmers to secure DAFM TAMS11 funding.

Martin O’Halloran, CEO of the HSA, in welcoming renewal of the joint initiative, stated 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.

Professor Gerry Boyle, Teagasc Director stated that Teagasc will be emphasising the need for improvements in work organisation to cut farmer workloads in its advisory programmes in 2018. “Working long hours and hurrying have been shown to be major contributory factors in farm accident causation, he stated. This may also be a contributory factor to the rise in accidents among older farmers in recent years”, he said.

Patrick Griffin, Senior Inspector with the HSA pointed out that a new revised version of the ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’ and Risk Assessment was released in 2017 and all farmers must complete the new document by the end of 2018.

Dr John McNamara, Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist stated that Teagasc would be mounting safety and health exhibits at major events in 2018 including the National Beef Open day at Teagasc Grange on 26th June.

The joint initiative will also have an international dimension in 2018. A European COST Action (Co-operation in Science & Technology) meeting will take place in Ireland during March. The meeting, organised by Teagasc and HSA, will share knowledge on improving farm safety culture throughout Europe. Also from April 29 - May 4 a major ‘World Congress on Occupational Health and Safety’ (ICOH International Congress, 2018) will take place in Dublin, which will include presentations on Teagasc / HSA / UCD research on farm safety and health.