The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will begin its next two-week farm inspection blitz on Monday, November 15th, focusing on working at heights.
The authority will target farms nationwide – “both small and large “– over the next fortnight.
HSA inspectors, during their farm visits, will remind farmers of the serious risks involved in any work at heights.
Also, inspectors will advise farmers to use the safest possible means of doing this work.
According to its data, working at heights over the last ten years has led to 11 fatalities on farms.
In 2020, across all sectors, slipping or falling led to 1,946 work-related incidents; 21% of these were falls from height.
As a result, HSA inspectors will pay particular attention to how farmers plan and organise their work at heights during this campaign.
HSA farm inspections
Pat Griffin, senior inspector with the Health and Safety Authority, said:
“A lot of work at height on farms takes place on shed roofs, many of which are either entirely or partially made from fragile materials.”
“Working on these roofs carries significant risk. Farmers must carefully plan and organise their work to ensure their safety and health.
“Ideally, farmers should avoid carrying out work at height at all and use a competent contractor who will have the equipment and expertise to do the work safely.”
“But where farmers have no option but to carry out the work themselves, there are basic precautions that must be taken.”
He said a fall from a height can lead to a very serious life-changing injury or even death.
Griffin stressed that taking shortcuts or carrying out the work without due regard to the risks involved is “not an option”.
The main risk when working at height are falls, either:
- From ladders;
- Through fragile roofs;
- From unprotected edges of roofs or other structures.
He said simple edge protection could prevent falls, but “all too often”, a lack of planning can lead to “very serious” consequences.
“A roof is considered fragile if it cannot support the weight of a person or where part or all of the roof can easily be broken or shattered.”
He listed fragile roofing materials, including galvanised sheeting, perspex sheeting, and other materials such as glass and wood wool slabs.
The HSA pointed to several factors that farmers should take into account when assessing the risk of roof work include:
- Roof lights which paint may obscure;
- Repairs in the past that may weaken the roof;
- Metal roof sheets that deteriorate with age;
- Wood wool slabs that water has damaged over time.
Furthermore, he said unsecured ladders slipping sideways or kicking out at the base can also cause “very serious” injuries.
He said farmers should only use ladders as a means of access or for very short tasks.
Ideally, where farmers are undertaking the work themselves, they should use a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) or a tower scaffold to undertake it safely.
“In terms of the law, maintenance of a structure is considered ‘construction work’. The extensive legal requirements for construction work must be complied with.”
“Where farmers are undertaking the work themselves, they must carry out a risk assessment,” he said.