The Health and Safety Authority has released details of its key priorities and inspections for 2018 in its annual Programme of Work, while Teagasc has published results of its national farm accident survey.
The agricultural sector will be the focus of 2,000 farm inspections in 2018 by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), which will also participate in 50 farm Knowledge Transfer Groups (KTGs) throughout the year. A farm-safety module has been built into these peer-to-peer learning KTGs, which have been developed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. HSA inspectors will participate in these by discussing practical farm safety with attendees. While the number of attendees varies from group to group, the HSA anticipates reaching up to 2,000 farmers through these groups. The HSA commenced its 2018 safety campaign in February with the first of three targeted inspections to take place throughout the year. Safety around livestock kicked off the first two-week strategy and will be followed by a focus on vehicle safety in May, while October will examine safe working at heights. In conjunction with ongoing inspection and enforcement, several occupational safety and health initiatives will also be adopted, according to the HSA. The following may be of particular relevance to farmers:
• Work-related stress will continue to be addressed through the promotion of the online tool, workpositive.ie; and
• Accidents involving vehicles are consistently the most common cause of fatal injury in all workplaces. This year the Authority will raise awareness of vehicle safety through joint initiatives with the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána.
Chief executive of the HSA, Martin O’Halloran, said: “Our remit is broad and covers all work activity. The very nature of work is evolving and new types of jobs are constantly being created so we must recognise current hazards and anticipate the ones that will emerge. We see our overall role as protecting the workforce while at the same time supporting business and enterprise.” Teagasc finds ‘alarming rise’ in farm accidents. In a national survey of farm accidents conducted by the Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS), it was found that numbers of farm accidents have risen by 13 per cent in the past five years, and by 31 per cent in the past 10 years. In the period 2012-2017, 11 per cent of farms had an accident and, in total, 2,814 accidents occurred.
The survey indicates that dairy farms had the highest accident rate of 18 per cent over the survey period compared to tillage (12 per cent) and sheep (11 per cent), with rearing and finishing reporting single-digit accident levels. It also indicates that 42 per cent of accidents involved livestock, with farm vehicles or machinery involved in a further 25 per cent. Trips or falls resulted in 13 per cent of farm accidents, followed by chainsaws at 7 per cent and farm buildings at 6 per cent. The proportion of accidents involving farm vehicles or machinery has more than doubled between 2011 and 2017, while livestock-related accidents increased by 26 per cent. There was a marked decline in the proportion of accidents due to trips and falls. The survey showed that almost two-thirds of farm accidents occurred in the farmyard (64 per cent) and a further 15 per cent happened in farm buildings. Almost one-fifth of accidents (19 per cent) were in fields, with only 2 per cent on farm roadways or lanes.
Teagasc’s NFS indicates that most on farm accidents (92 per cent) involved a family member, with 80 per cent involving the farmer. Twelve per cent involved a spouse or another family member. The remaining proportion of accidents involved workers (5 per cent) and others (3 per cent). Almost all farm accident victims (97 per cent) required medical treatment, with 73 per cent attending hospital, a further 19 per cent attended a doctor and 4 per cent received first aid. Tragically, 1 per cent of such accidents reported resulted in a fatality. In terms of work-time loss due to a farm accident, almost one-third (30 per cent) of accidents resulted in a work absence of more than a month, with 21 per cent resulting in absence of more than two months.
The NFS indicates that younger farmers are more likely to have non-fatal accidents in contrast to fatal accidents. Thirteen per cent of farmers in the 40-50 and 50-60 age brackets suffered a farm accident, followed by 12 per cent for farmers below 40 years of age. Nine per cent of farmers aged 60-70, and 7 per cent of farmers over 70 years of age, suffered a farm accident over the timeframe of the survey.