Agriculture -Frequently Asked Questions


What laws secure the safety and health of workers on farms?

The safety, health and welfare of farmers and their workers are secured by the following legislation:

  • Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005
  • Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007
  • Code of Practice for Preventing Injury and Occupational Ill Health in Agriculture.
  • Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006
  • 2002 Code of Practice for the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical) Agents Regulations
  • Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical) Agent Regulations 2001
  • A Code of Practice on Preventing Accidents to Children and Young Persons in Agriculture 2010

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I am self-employed on my own farm – does the law apply to me? 

The law imposes similar duties to those listed above on self-employed persons at work.

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Are farmers responsible for the health and safety of non-employees? 

Farmers must conduct their operations in such a manner so as not to put other persons at risk (e.g. visitors, especially children and contractors).

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What powers have Inspectors of the Health and Safety Authority when they visit my farm?

Inspectors of the Authority have power to enter any place of work at any reasonable time for the purpose of inspection, accident investigation etc.  It is an offence to obstruct an inspector in the course of his/her duty.  In all cases during an inspection farmers will be given advice and encouragement to meet the required standards of safety.  However, where there are breaches of the law an inspector may serve an Improvement Notice on the farmer, giving him/her a specified time within which to remedy the defect.  Where the breach constitutes an imminent threat to the safety and health of persons, he/she may serve a Prohibition Notice on the farmer, requiring him/her to stop work immediately.  The inspector may also initiate prosecution of the farmer for not complying with the law.

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What are the duties of a farmer as an employer?

If a farmer employs persons, the 2005 Act imposes general duties of care on the farmer to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare of all his/her employees.  These duties include providing:-

  • a safe place of work which includes the farmyard and sheds
  • safe working practices and procedures
  • safe plant equipment and machinery for use on the farm e.g. tractors, balers, harvesters and other machinery and tools
  • a safe way in and out of the farmyard and other places of work, including farm buildings
  • information and training for workers
  • personal protective equipment where necessary
  • a safe system for the storage, handling and use of articles and substances
  • adequate toilet and washing facilities

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I am employed on a farm – do I have any duties under the Safety and Health Act?

Yes farm workers have duties of care.  They must:-

  • take care of themselves and others working with them
  • co-operate with their employers to enable them to comply with the law
  • use any personal protective equipment provided by their employers and not misuse or interfere with anything provided for their safety
  • report any hazards they become aware of to their employers and consult with their employer on matters of safety and health on the farm
  • take account of any training and instruction which they have been given

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Are Farmers required to have a Safety Statement? 

A farmer is required by law to prepare a safety statement and consult with his/her employees on its contents.  In the statement he/she must identify the hazards and assess the risks of injury on the farm.  This assessment must include all farm operations.  He/she must specify how these risks are to be controlled.  A farmer’s safety statement must be in writing setting out the arrangements and resources provided to safeguard the safety and health of persons on the farm. The 2005 Act allows employers (including farmers) with three or less employees to comply with the terms of a Code of Practice as an alternative to preparing a Safety Statement.

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Who should have access to Farmers Safety Statement? 

The Safety Statement must be made available to all employees on the farm.  Also the contents of the safety statement must be brought to the attention of any other people on the farm who may be affected by health and safety risks.  This could include casual/relief workers and contractors etc. Staff with responsibility for performance of tasks related to safety must be named in the statement.  An Inspector from the Health and Safety Authority may examine your statement during the course of an inspection on your farm.  If the statement is found to be inadequate, the Inspector can direct you to revise it within 30 days.

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Where can I get help with preparing my Farm Safety Statement?

Guidelines on the Preparation of a Safety Statement for a Farm is available from the HSA publication unit 1890 289389 or can be purchased from the HSA website on   These guidelines are designed as an aid to farmers (employers and self-employed) in drawing up a safety statement.  Further information can be obtained from the Health and Safety Authority on 1890 289 389.

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What do I need to do in preparing a Safety Statement for my farm?

The Safety Statement is essentially a written plan on how you intend to manage safety on your farm.  You will need to:

  • identify the hazards on your farm
  • assess the risk of injury associated with the hazards
  • identify and write down how you plan to eliminate or control the hazards          

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What must be covered by a Safety Statement? 

The statement should:-

  • specify how the safety, health and welfare of all who work on your farm is covered
  • give details of arrangements that are in place to manage health and safety including your commitment to complying with your legal obligations
  • be based on an identification of hazards and an assessment of risks on your farm
  • specify the co-operation required from employees on health and safety matters and arrangements for consultation on these matters where practical
  • include names (job titles) of your employees, whether part-time or full-time or family members you are appointing to be responsible for health and safety tasks on your farm e.g. farm manager
  • include details of information available to employees on health and safety e.g. machine manuals etc.
  • detail the welfare arrangements for employees (toilet/canteen facilities etc.)
  • specify arrangement and resources provided, including First-Aid training, Emergency plans, Fire drills etc.
  • specify arrangements provided to protect the safety and health of children and young persons on the farm, whether family members or visitors

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Where should I put the Safety Statement?

The Safety Statement for your farm should be kept in a location where everyone working on the farm can read it.  You will need to make it available for examination by an Inspector of the Health and Safety Authority should he/she visit your farm.

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How often should my safety statement be reviewed?

A safety statement is a live document and must reflect changes on the farm e.g. new machines or work practices introduced.  It should be reviewed annually at least and kept by the farmer at his home.

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What can I do to ensure the safety and health of my children on the farm?

The most effective way of preventing access to hazardous areas on a farm is to erect childproof fencing or other barriers and to provide a safe and secure play area for children away from all work activities. Always supervise children.

The Health and Safety Authority has issued a Code of Practice entitled “Code of Practice on Preventing Accidents to Children and Young Persons in Agriculture”. The Code provides practical guidance relating to the protection of the safety and health of children and young persons on farms.  This can be obtained from the HSA Publications Unit Tel: 1890 289389 or from our website on

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What are the main hazards on a farm?

Some hazards are obvious, for example unguarded moving parts of machinery, tractor operation, livestock handling, sheep dipping, chemicals, working at heights, slurry tanks, over-head power lines.   Less obvious, but at the root of many accidents, are hazards presented by untidy yards, workshops etc. and poor machine maintenance. 
Farm activities likely to cause ill-health must be also considered e.g. excessive noise.  Farmers lung, brucellosis, weils disease, toxoplasmosis are some of the more serious diseases found in the farming population. This is not an exhaustive list.   When identifying farm hazards consideration should be also given to the farm workshops, silage making and electrical safety.  Further assistance can be obtained from the Health and Safety Authority's Code of Practice for Preventing Injury and Occupational Ill Health in Agriculture available from the Authority’s publications unit 1890 289389 or purchase from our website on which includes identifying these hazards, assessing their risks and what controls can be put in place to eliminate or control these risks.

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What should I check before using a tractor power take-off shaft (PTO)? 

The following checklist should be used:-

  • ensure the guard matches the shaft both in length and size.  Rotating PTO shafts must be totally enclosed by the guard
  • keep PTO guards in good condition – clean and grease regularly
  • make sure the draw bar pins of trailed machines do not damage the guard
  • store guards in a safe and secure place when not in use.  Damaged guards should not be used
  • operators should not wear loose clothing and should tie back long hair due to the risk of entanglement

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What safe work practices should I consider before driving an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV)?

The following safe practices should be considered:-

  • provide all drivers with adequate training.  There is a legal requirement for employers and the self-employed to ensure training for work equipment such as ATVs
  • operators must take note of manufacturer’s instructions particularly those relating to driving on slopes and rough terrain
  • plan the use of ATVs carefully and take particular note of variations in ground conditions and gradient
  • remember increasing speed increases vehicle instability and the risk of overturning
  • wear head protection, which protects the head and neck.  Protective helmets which meet BS 6658:1985 are suitable.

A guidance sheet “Safe use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in agriculture and forestry” gives advice on the safe use of sit-astride all terrain vehicles (ATVs) also known as ATV Quad Bikes.  This can downloaded free of charge from the HSA website

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Should farmers notify the HSA if an accident occurs on the farm? 

All employers and the self-employed, which includes all farmers, are required to notify the authority of any accident which occurs to themselves or their employees during the course of their work, and which prevents them from carrying out their normal duties for more than three calendar days, on the approved form IR1.  The authority must also be notified of specified dangerous occurrences such as fires, explosions and chemical spillages.

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Should farm workers be trained? 

There is a strong emphasis in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act and in the General Application Regulations on the provision of training.  This also applies to agricultural workers, which is a sector with a high labour input where farmers and workers perform a wide range of hazardous tasks.

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Where can I find appropriate courses to safeguard workers on farms? 

Teagasc is the state agency with responsibility for advice, training and research in agriculture.  Teagasc has integrated advice on safety and health and on complying with the law into all its programmes.  They can be contacted at 059-9170200 or visit their website on  

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Where can my 14 year old do a course on safety awareness of driving tractors?

FRS Health & Safety, Derryvale, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. Phone: Lo-call 1890-201000 run half day courses to create a safety awareness amongst teenagers working with tractors. Please click on this link for further information

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What is the legal age to drive a tractor? 

A child or young person aged 14 or over should only be permitted to drive a tractor or self-propelled machine on the farm, if:-

  • they have attended a formal training course run by a competent training provider
  • they are closely supervised by a responsible adult
  • they have the ability to operate the controls with ease
  • all the controls are conveniently accessible for safe operation by the operator when seated in the driver’s seat
  • the controls which operate the power take off (PTO) devices, hydraulic devices and engine cut-off are clearly marked to show the effect of their operation
  • the tractor is maintained so that it is safe for them to operate
  • the ground over which the tractor is driven is free from hazards such as steep slopes or excavations, river banks, lake or pond edges, deep ditches and similar areas

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Where can I find statistics on non-fatal and fatal accidents on farming? 

Statistics on accidents and serious injuries in the workplace are available from the HSA Annual Reports Summary of Fatality, Injury and Illness Statistics  and on our website

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Agricultural Code of Practice

What is this Code of Practice?

The document is a Code of Practice for the Prevention of Accidents and Occupational Ill Health in Agriculture (incorporating a Risk Assessment Document and a Safe System of Work Plan (SWWP).

The aim of this Code of Practice is to improve the level of safety and health among all people engaged in the agriculture sector by providing practical user-friendly guidance with respect to compliance with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005. The 2005 Act allows employers (including most farmers) with three or less employees to comply with the terms of a Code of Practice as an alternative to preparing a written Safety Statement.

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How will the Code of Practice help me?

It will provide practical guidance to farmers, farm family members, employees, service providers, advisers, trainers and persons with a role related to safety and health in agriculture on the requirements of the 2005 Act to help improve the level of safety and health in the agriculture sector.

It sets out clearly the major risks in farming and provides a simple approach through the risk assessment document to managing safety at farm level.

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How do I get a copy of the Agricultural COP?

In late 2006 packs containing the Code of Practice was dispatched to farmers nationwide. Every farmer in the country received a copy of the pack which contained:

  • Code of Practice for Preventing Injury and Occupational Ill Health in Agriculture
  • Risk Assessment document
  • Farm Safe System of Work Plan (SSWP)

The Code of Practice is available either by attending a COP training course or from the Publications Department at the Health & Safety Authority.

Teagasc and Agricultural Consultants who are members of the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) provide half day training courses on the COP to all farmers (client and non-client).How to use the Code and how to fill in the details will be fully explained. As it is an essential aid to the prevention of accidents on your farm it is advisable that you contact your local Teagasc Office or ACA Consultant for advice on this training.

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What steps can I take on my farm to prevent an accident involving tractors?

Tractors are potentially lethal and accidents involving tractors account for a very high proportion of all farm accidents each year.  Ensure that:

  • the tractor is maintained in good working condition
  • a cab or safety frame is fitted
  • all controls are in good working order and clearly marked
  • brakes are checked regularly and are always in sound working condition
  • all relevant guards are in place and that PTO and Hydraulics are functioning correctly
  • mirrors, lights and wipers are in working order at all times
  • the tractor is always parked safely
  • the guidance in the operator’s manual is followed and operate the tractor in a safe manner

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What can I do to prevent injury to persons working on my farm from animals?

Make sure that your farm has proper handling facilities and equipment such as collecting/dispersal areas, chute and cattle crush.  Minimise the risk of injury from livestock by using good management and husbandry practices.  Use restraining equipment as necessary and always follow recommended practices when dealing with stock bulls.     

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List of Agriculture Publications