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August 16, 2009

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HSA alarmed by low Farm Safety Code uptake

The Irish Health and Safety Authority has reprimanded farmers for

failing to complete a Farm Safety Code of Practice, which was designed

to reduce the toll of injury and ill health in the sector.

HSA inspector Pat Griffin told delegates at a national farm safety conference on 14 August that the development of the Farm Safety Code of Practice was a major step forward for the industry. However, he expressed concern at a national survey carried out by the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, Teagasc, which showed that almost two thirds of farmers have not completed the Code.

Despite the farming industry employing just 6 per cent of the workforce, last year saw 21 farming-related deaths out of a total of 57 across all sectors — making it by far the most dangerous sector in which to work.

To improve health and safety in the sector, the Code of Practice was launched in September 2006 as part of a joint initiative between the HSA and the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee. The Code examines the data available on fatalities, injuries and ill health in farming, and shows how such occurrences can be reduced.

Addressing the conference, Inspector Griffin said: “It’s quite clear that many farmers are showing little, or no regard for the Farm Safety Code of Practice. A copy of the Code was sent to every farmer in the country and there’s simply no excuse for such a low compliance rate.

“Farmers must take personal responsibility for their own safety and health. The low usage of the Farm Safety Code indicates a very worrying lack of engagement with what is a practical and easily implementable, preventative system, a system that saves lives and helps avoid horrific injuries.”

John McNamara, health and safety officer with Teagasc, said the research illustrated that if farmers are not fully ‘switched on’ to health and safety management, standards and practices tend to be unsatisfactory. Describing the Code as the most effective way for farmers to focus on the key farm-management issues to prevent injury and ill health, he urged them to “get out of the ‘it will never happen to me’ mindset that is all-too common”.

Responding to the HSA’s criticisms, deputy president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Derek Deane, said that farmers are conscious of the importance of safety on their farms and have implemented safety procedures to minimise the likelihood of accidents.

He promised the IFA would work with both the Authority and Teagasc to ensure farmers are aware of their health and safety responsibilities, but warned: “As farmers are facing a particularly difficult year because of poor prices and bad weather, IFA does not agree that prosecution is the way to go. Farmers should be encouraged to
participate in training programmes that will ensure a safe workplace.”

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