Farm Safety Focus NOVEMBER 2018 Changing attitudes Arthur Byrne, ESB Networks Public Safety Manager, stresses the importance of education and changing people’s behaviour when it comes to farm safety 42 “My role is about trying to improve the understanding and awareness among the public in relation to the risk that electricity can pose in their daily lives, whether at leisure or at work,” says Arthur of his position at ESB Networks. When it comes to industries such as construction and farming these messages are key. “We have substantial communication with farmers at the right times of year regarding farm safety and in particular with electric lines. We need to modify behaviours and be aware of the consequences of electricity. It’s fundamentally about education but as you get older people are not as amenable to education and it can be difficult competing with other messaging and the distraction of normal, everyday life.” Arthur continues that part of his remit is to identify what the important messages are and then use the best opportunities to communicate these… “recognizing that we can’t do everything”. “This can be in collaboration with others… working with stakeholders to harness that message in the right way, which is not just about electricity but all of farm safety, and then to integrate that message.” Analysing common issues around farm safety, such as damaged poles or pulling down an electricity line, allows the team at ESB to identify those trends and try to integrate these into formal messaging. “We need to use engaging analysis and softer marketing communication to frame that message so that it is impactful and not negative in its tone.” Accidents do happen but it is also about how you react to these events, he adds: “A farmer pulled down a line but he had the sense to stay in the tractor and ring ESB Networks so that we were able to come out and safely deal with the situation. When we see a message like that getting through to people it is very reinforcing.” Stormy issues So, what are the principal issues right now on farms in Ireland? “We had three minor storms which caused havoc – while the storms were raging, we had trees falling and pulling down the network, which is a risk to farmers and to animals when lines are live, so they have to be disconnected proactively by us. Landowners need to make sure sheds are secure and animals are safe – in the darkness they may come across a power line that is down. So, it is not just about information relating to when supply will be restored that is important – our primary priority is that the public remain safe and never touch or handle a wire. People may do this to move it out of the way and their intention is good but it is not safe behaviour. And visibility is important. In the aftermath of a storm the farmer may be visiting a field they have not been in for a while and not notice a line down and literally walk into a power line, which has sadly happened before.” Radio is a key part of ESB’s messaging, as Arthur explains. “We do short little radio bursts. Sometimes they can be about fallen wires, or aimed at people working near overhead wires, but currently we are looking at low conductors on the farmyard. You can have a situation where a pole that wasn’t particularly in the way previously is now in the way. If something doesn’t look right, if it