To date in 2015, there have been 15 people killed in farm accidents in the Republic of Ireland with four deaths in Northern Ireland.
The Health and Safety Authority and the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland, with the support of FBD and Teagasc, hosted an ‘All-Island Farm Safety Conference’ at the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan.
Farmers and Safety professionals from both sides of the border shared ideas and prevention strategies on how to best reduce injury and death on farms.
Simon Best, former captain of Ulster Rugby spoke about “being an active farmer with a young family, as well as an employer, and how he is ‘acutely aware of the importance of safety on his farm’. He encouraged ‘all members of the farming community to prioritise safety”.
Peter Gohery, a farmer from Galway spoke about how he lost a leg to an unguarded PTO shaft and how it still affects his life and ability to farm.
Dr Denis O’Hora from the National University of Ireland, Galway presented the findings of a study on the impact of farm stresses and their impact on farm safety. The study found that farmers who expect to suffer farm injuries tend to have greater anxiety which was predicted by financial worries and farm pressures. Social support has a protective effect as it decreases anxiety and expectations of injury. Farm stresses also directly increase expectations of injury.
Speaking about the types of support available Teagasc director, Prof Gerry Boyle, encouraged farmers to engage with the initiatives available for improving physical farm infrastructure and safety behaviour.
“It is vital that the maximum use is made of the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation (TAMS) and Knowledge Transfer (KT) schemes to improve safety. These schemes have been introduced under the EU Rural Development Programme 2015-2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,” he stated.
Brian Higgisson, assistant chief executive of the Health and Safety Authority, said that farmers know what the issues are on their farms, but some seem unable or unwilling to take preventative action.
He said: “The authority has provided huge resources through inspection, awareness raising, free guidance and safety management tools. We now need to see more farmers take the initiative themselves and make the improvements required to reduce these terrible and tragic accidents from occurring with such regularity.”
HSENI chief executive, Keith Morrison echoed Brian Higgisson’s thoughts when he stated: “Despite the continuing efforts by our Farm Safety Partnership in Northern Ireland to reduce death and serious injury, there are still too many accidents of all types on local farms. More needs to be done and farmers themselves must play their part. They need to change how they do things so that every job, big or small, is done within a culture of ‘safety first - every time’. We simply can’t keep on losing lives every year through accidents that are completely preventable.”
Professor Boyle also announced that Teagasc and the Health and Safety Authority are to jointly fund a PhD Walsh Fellowship, to study the adoption of farm safety and health through farmer participation in Knowledge Transfer groups. He stated that academic supervision for the fellowship will be provided through the School of Agriculture and Food Science at UCD and School of Psychology at NUI, Galway.
To close the conference, farm leaders took part in an open forum discussion hosted by Matt Dempsey.
The conference was sponsored by FBD trust and supported by the Ulster Farmers’ Union, ICMSA, IFA and the Farm Safety Partnership.