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themselves, whether it is about consumer choice or
businesses knowing the information they need to keep
safe and put product on the market."
"Ultimately, our role is to make sure that regulation
and guidance is all there and that it is clear and
comprehensive; that people know what they have to do
and then to make sure people are following this and that is
where enforcement comes in."
"For me, regarding the message about farm safety, it is
important to make sure there is not too much noise.
Where do you go? Who do you listen to? At the end of the
day, we are the authority and we put out the regulation.
But we certainly should also be out there working with
stakeholders and engaging with them. Other groups, such
as farm organisations, take what we are saying and doing
and multiply that message and we look to them to do that.
We need to maximize the single message, making sure
what we are doing and saying is getting to level it needs
to and then using all the other representatives to multiply
and repeat that message."
"We also need to make sure we are not saying one thing
and doing nothing, or doing something else. If we are
committed to farm safety we really need to show it. It is
about real action."
Unique issues
So far, 16 people have been killed on Irish farms this year
a tragic statistic and one that needs immediate attention.
"We certainly acknowledge there is a lot sadness and pain
out there for those who have been victims of farm safety.
Groups like Embrace Farm are using their own personal
stories and tragedy to try to make sure no one else goes
through this and we welcome and encourage this. But we
are still seeing high numbers of incidents, particularly
among older farmers: we need to ask is it an older
person issue here or a farm issue? Generally, we do have
an aging work force that is moving up and it is expected
that we are all going to be working longer. However, you
do not see someone who is 65-70 years old working on a
construction site. That is unique to farming"
A recent farm structure survey revealed that one-third
of farmers are over the age of retirement. "This is the
reality. We need to ask, why are farmers still farming at
this age? We need to look at that issue in a more rounded
manner and it may require a diff erent type of engagement.
How can you tell a farmer not to farm if he has nothing
else? So we need to ask, how can we enable them to
not feel that they have to continue farming or that they
have no other options. It is a much bigger debate that
needs to be tackled." But, Sharon continues, what works
in construction and other sectors can equally work in
farming. "The work-related vehicle safety programme
works in other sectors and there are huge issues around
farm machinery. There is a lot that farmers could do
around maintenance and ensuring they have the right
skills. For older farmers, they are no longer dealing with a
small tractor the ones they are now working with may be
2-3 times the size of what they worked on when they were
younger.
There is a huge amount of messaging out there, advice
and support. Awareness is quite good but it is a matter
of taking on board what is there. If you have machinery,
make sure you are aware and trained on how to use it. And
look at maintenance: a simple job one day might save you
an arm or a leg or your life down the line."
Looking at the statistics, Sharon says there have been
real successes. "In previous times, there were more farm
safety issues with children and PTO shafts it is great
to see they are reducing. However, we don't want to see
these come back up because we are focusing on something
else we need to make sure keep up work in all of these
areas. But the pressing issues right now are machinery
safety and the older farmer: that's where I would like to
focus and really work to see a change."
SEPTEMBER 2018
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
Interview
SEPTEMBER 2018
Interview
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
15
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