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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘It’s not until a farmer encounters a ‘near-miss’ or worse that attention quickly reverts to safety’

Completing a thorough, honest Farm Risk Assessment will help you and your family enjoy what you love doing in a safer manner.

That is according to Serena Gibbons, education officer, Teagasc Galway/Clare, who has urged farmers each question in thei Farm Safety Risk Assessment document honestly.

The Risk Assessment Document was revised in 2017. Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at work Act, 2005, it is a legal requirement for every farm to have an up-to-date Risk Assessment Document (RAD) completed.

“The Risk Assessment Document is a user-friendly document, easy to complete and update.”

“Each safety section is clearly outlined, and the risk assessment is straightforward. When answering the pre-printed questions, you simply tick Yes, No or N/A.”

“If you feel that the handbrake on the tractor is not 100%, then this should be identified as ‘No’ on the tractor page and highlighted on the action list at the back of the Risk Assessment Document.”

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She said a farmer’s action list should contain items that you have identified as not meeting the safety standards on your farm.

“There is little to be gained from ticking yes to all questions while ignoring major safety issues on your farm.”
“Completing the safety assessment properly is another step in ensuring safer working conditions for you, your family and all those who work on your farm.”

Unfortunately, the number of farm fatalities remains too high.

The highest number of accidents and fatalities occur in three main categories:

  • Tractors;
  • Machinery;
  • Livestock

“Tractors are the workhorse of the farm, and regardless of the scale and enterprise on your farm, the tractor is the one vehicle that cannot be done without.”

“A thorough risk assessment on your tractor(s) is crucial. Page 9 of the RAD lists a comprehensive checklist and safety practices in relation to tractor safety.”

She said that quads bike and farm vehicles fall under this category and you should risk assess them.


Gibbons stated that while many farmers employ contractors to carry out the majority of machinery operations, there are still a number of machines on all farms that can cause injury and fatalities.

The checklist for machinery is on page 11 of the RAD; this includes cattle trailers.

Again, give the checklist thought. If there is an item that does not meet the safety standard, note it on the action list.


It is the breeding season on most farms. This will mean a stock bull running with the herd or identifying cows for AI. This can bring about an increase in livestock handling – particularly if heifers or cows need to be brought in from grazing ground for AI.

Ensure you have adequate facilities to funnel the stock in from the fields and that you carry out movement calmly and without stress to animals.

“An excited or stressed animal can be dangerous and difficult to control. Always ensure you move animals in small groups and not individually.”

“The bull should have a ring and chain and should never be trusted, even if he has never previously displayed any form of aggression.”

“You should always behave as if he has the potential to attack or charge. Herding in your jeep or quad during the breeding season will help reduce this risk.”

Farmers can reduce risks 

“As with all aspects of farm safety, it is impossible to foresee every potential problem. However, giving time to completing an honest risk assessment document for your farm is an excellent start to reducing the risk.”

“The hazards will always be there. It is the agricultural environment, but farmers have it in their control to reduce the risks.”

Gibbons said that the Risk Assessment Document should be an “active working document”.

The whole family should be familiar with it, and should any of you notice an area for improvement. This should be included in the action list and addressed when the time is available.

“Attitudes are everything. It is easy to get totally focused on the end result. It’s not until a farmer encounters a ‘near miss’ or worse that attention quickly reverts to safety,” Gibbons concluded.

You can complete your Risk Assessment Document online here. You can find more farming tips and advice here.

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