The launch of a new Farm Safety Action Plan this week aims to reduce the level of fatalities, serious injuries and ill health in the agriculture sector.
With more people having died in agriculture compared with any other economic sector during the past decade, the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee (FSPAC) – an advisory committee to the Board of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) – has published its latest Action Plan for 2021-2024.
The FSPAC is made up of representatives and experts from a variety of relevant agriculture organisations and is tasked with improving occupational health and safety in the sector.
Of the 495 work-related fatalities in Ireland during 2011 -2020, 208 occurred in Agriculture, according to the Health and Safety Authority’s Review of Work-Related Deaths in Agriculture in Ireland 2011-2020, also published this week. 51% of the worker-victims were aged 65 years or older, while 21 of the victims were aged under 18.
Agriculture is a high-risk industry, where most are self-employed and predominantly work alone. Workers are potentially exposed to many dangers, such as large animals, heavy machinery, and liquids such as slurry and gas emitting materials.
The FSPAC has identified five critical areas for attention: Behaviour, Education and Training; Health and Vulnerable Persons; Tractor, High Risk Machinery; Livestock Handling; and Buildings, Work at Height.
According to the report, work-related fatalities in Agriculture were highest in the south-west region of Cork and Kerry (13.7 per 100,000 employed), followed by the border region of Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo (8.9 per 100,000 employed).
Welcoming the new Farm Safety Action Plan 2021-2024, the Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD, said: “The new Farm Safety Partnership, with its multi-stakeholder membership, provides a broad view of the agricultural sector and will be delivering on the key areas where health and safety improvements are needed the most.
“This Action Plan is ambitious and achieving the objectives will be important in our drive to lowering fatalities and serious injuries in the agricultural industry.
“I would encourage all farmers and business operators in this industry to avail of and use the existing resources including extensive HSA guidance and the Farm Safety Code of Practice.
“I would also like to wish the Farm Safety Partnership well in delivering on this Action Plan over the next 4 years,” the Minister stated.
Ciaran Roche, the FSPAC Chair, said “The FSPAC has made considerable progress in raising awareness of farm safety. There is also recognition that safety standards across the sector show signs of improvement. However, reducing the overall rate of fatal and serious injuries in the agriculture sector has been slow.
“Introducing behavioural change in relation to health and safety for farmers will be a key part of achieving a sustained reduction on the numbers of fatal and serious injuries in the sector.
“The FSPAC Action Plan has set out key objectives and initiatives that our members will continue to deliver on with our core aim being to improve on the health and safety of Irish Farmers and those who may influencer their behaviour, such as family and peers.”
Work-related fatalities were more frequent in spring and summer in Agriculture, according to the review, with the highest number happening in July (34, 16%). This pattern may be related to the intensity of farming activity during spring and summer.
Work-related fatalities involving children were most common during the summer months, particularly August (five, 24%) and July (four, 19%).
Welcoming both publications Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for Farm Safety, Martin Heydon TD said: “On reviewing the recent HSA Review of Work-Related Deaths in Agriculture in Ireland we can see that almost half of all farm deaths involve tractors and other farm machinery.
“As we move between seasons, now is an opportune time for farmers to carry out safety checks on machinery that will be in use in the coming weeks.
“A risk assessment of the farmyard should also be completed. Is there appropriate lighting? Have slats been checked for wear or tear? Taking simple steps now can help make farms a safer place over the winter. I’d ask farmers to take time to consider safety and to review the farm safety guidance available to them on HSA.ie.
“The latest Farm Safety Action Plan for 2021 – 2024 reminds us that education around safety is crucial and that upskilling or training should be carried out where needed.”
To read the Farm Safety Action Plan visit https://www.hsa.ie/!JVTJYP
To read the HSA Review of Work-Related Deaths in Agriculture in Ireland 2011-2020, visit www.hsa.ie