At the launch of a conference on farm safety in Ennis, Minister of State Pat Breen urged all stakeholders to focus on reducing deaths on Irish Farms.
The Health and Safety Authority and Teagasc, with the support of the Farm Safety Partnership, hosted a ‘National Conference on Farm Safety and Health’ at the Auburn Lodge Hotel.
Farming continues to be the most hazardous occupation in Ireland, consistently reporting the highest number of fatalities in comparison to other sectors over the last number of years.
Delivering the opening address, Minister Breen said: “Farming remains an important part of Irish life and a key part of our economy.
“Across the farming community, there have been 21 people killed due to work activity so far in 2017. This is too high. Families are grieving. We must make every effort to ensure that workplace deaths in the farming industry are reduced.
“Throughout this year, I have engaged with stakeholders involved in farming on this issue to find solutions to this crisis.
“Progress is being made, information and training are out there but we need to change the mindset and culture and ensure that safety is a priority for farmers and their families.
“I again repeat my call for farmers to stay safe, think about your actions, consider your work practices. The toll on the community and on farming families is simply too high.”
Professor Jim Phelan, Chairman of the Farm Safety Partnership, told the conference: “There has been a shift in the last number of years towards fatalities amongst older people in agriculture and that is very concerning.
“I believe that the solution to reducing these deaths is a multi-agency or multi-stakeholder approach where we strongly target vulnerable groups, such as elderly farmers, with safety messages and supports.
“It will take a significant investment in terms of time and money but we must address this issue with resources.”
According to Dr John McNamara, farm safety and health specialist with Teagasc, working in a hurry is a major factor in farm accidents, particularly in spring when the workload increases dramatically.
He commented, “Farmers are under increased work pressure, as the dairy sector has expanded due to milk quota abolition, while dry-stock farmers are availing of off-farm employment with the upturn in the economy.
“Teagasc advisors are paying particular attention to the organisation of work and are assisting farmers to cut workload through farm modification and change in practices. We have to look at the contributing factors that cause farm accidents and come up with solutions that will get buy-in from farmers.”
Clare dry-stock farmer, Michael Callinan told the conference how he operates his family farm. Michael has won three awards in the categories of farmyard, livestock and safety. He spoke about the importance of keeping the yard tidy and understanding the importance of livestock safety.
He also told attendees that safety just doesn’t happen, it needs time and attention. “Because I work off-farm, everything I do on the farm must be efficient, time managed and I always consider if I can do the job more efficiently and safer. Every farmer must put their safety, and their health, first every day.”
Has chairman Tom Coughlan explained: “The remit of the authority covers all sectors and workers but it is clear that the number of deaths occurring on Irish farms is at crisis levels.
“The board of the authority met here in Ennis to show our support for this event and to hear the speakers today. This conference will help the authority to develop new strategies for farm safety.”