Farmers and key decision-makers in agriculture attended the second annual Safeguarding the Future of Farming conference, which took place on May 1 in Teagasc, Moorepark Food Research Centre, Co. Cork.
The conference, in association with FBD Insurance, Teagasc and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) heard of the importance of farmer health and wellbeing in the overall farm safety conversation, and the impact that bad health, stress and rural isolation can have on our farming community. The agriculture sector, which represents about 6 per cent of the Irish workforce, often accounts for up to 50 per cent of all work-related deaths. Between 2004-2017, there have been 229 farm-related deaths in Ireland, and, so far, in 2019, there have been five confirmed farm-related fatalities, according to the HSA. Safeguarding the Future of Farming aims to tackle the key causes of these accidents in a constructive way through expert speakers, and practical demonstrations on a live farm.
Addressing the conference, CEO of the HSA Dr Sharon McGuinness said that ‘farm accidents don’t just happen’ and we need to stop accepting the idea that farmers, due to the nature of the job, will just continue to be at risk.The time has come, she said, to ask the question if farmers should be working on farms after the age of retirement. She said that, of the 229 fatalities from 2004-2017, 172 (or 75 per cent) were aged over 50. “Agricultural fatalities are predominantly seen in individuals aged over-50. That is not a good fact. No other workplace would see this happen because in other industries people retire, they don’t work into their 70s, 80s, even 90s. Should farmers be working past this age?” she asked. Hearing loss, sight loss and other age-related issues are serious contributing factors to farm-related injuries and fatalities, Dr McGuinness said. “Can farmers keep active on the farm without getting into that big tractor or the quad? It is a difficult one, but we need to have this conversation,” she said.
Other keynote speakers at the conference included: Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle; CEO, FBD Insurance, Fiona Muldoon; Health Check manager, Irish Heart Foundation, Marese Damery; and Macra na Feirme’s John Keane and Johnathan Dwyer who spoke about the ‘Make the Moove - Farmers Matter’ initiative, which looks at mental health issues among the farming community. Students from St Brogan’s College in Cork and CBS The Green, Tralee presented their BT Young Scientist Exhibition 2019 farm safety projects.
A lively panel discussion, chaired by Irish Farmers Monthly editor, Matt O’Keeffe, featured: Brian Rohan - Embrace Farm; Dr Aoife Osborne – lecturer, University College Dublin; Daniel Hawthorne - FBD Young Farmer of the Year; Willie Shortall - Farm Health & Safety Exec., IFA; and Dr Des Groome - MVB MBS Vet Director VideoVet Ltd.Live farm safety demonstrations at Teagasc, Moorepark farm focused on: livestock management; vehicle management, quad safety; and working at heights.