Circa 300,000 people are at risk across 135,025 farms in Ireland, according to a health and safety specialist.
Teagasc’s Dr John McNamara told viewers of the state agency’s recent occupational safety and health (OSH) for sustainable farming webinar that “health and safety have huge consequences for anyone impacted with pain, suffering, tragedy”.
He explained that “ill health is described as an accident in slow motion, and disability arises from poor health and safety leads to all sorts of issues at a business level”.
“Economic income can reduce by 22%, and people often have to get out of off-farm employment.”
“Farmers are predominately self-employed, and they tend to take risks. There is a difference between self-employed and working for a company where you are under someone else’s control.”
He told the virtual information meeting that “age is a definite factor in farm safety fatal accidents in Ireland”.
“In scientific literature, farm safety and health are being described as a wicked problem, meaning that the solution has many components at various different levels.”
“Accurate risk communication is crucial, and that is what we seek to do in Ireland. Getting knocked down by a tractor and getting attacked by a cow in Ireland are two huge issues in Irish farming. Safety should be seen as a positive issue with a lot of things to get and put right on-farm.”
He added that Teagasc advisors, in studies that the state agency was involved in, stated that “farmers forget about safety when pressure comes on”.
Dr McNamara stressed that work organisation is a close relation to health and safety management, and in doing so, he pointed to a graphic on farmer OHS management and a UK HSE-led farmer study from 2017.
It showed that 45% of farmers are planners, 14% are pragmatists (inadequate paperwork), 18% are risk takers, and 23% are unclear (require ongoing support).
The health and safety specialist then referenced data on accident occurrence by farm systems, which is based on NFS (National Farm Survey) data for the last five years. It shows that dairying has the highest levels of non-fatal accidents, followed by tillage and sheep.