Minister of State with responsibility for Farm Safety at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Martin Heydon, T.D., has announced the provision of funding to Teagasc for the procurement of farm machinery simulators for use in agricultural colleges.
Making the announcement about the investment Minister of State Heydon said: “My priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of our farmers, and this investment of over €1.25 million in 18 agricultural machinery simulators represents a significant step up in the efforts of my Department and Teagasc to improve the safety record around farm machinery and tractors. They will be ready and in use in all the agricultural colleges in the coming academic year.”
Farming has a poor safety record, accounting for approximately 42% of fatal workplace incidents in the period 2011 – 2020, yet only 6% of the working population is employed in the sector. Over half of fatal farm incidents are associated with tractors, farm vehicles and machinery. Teagasc National Farm Survey data indicates that about 700 farm vehicle and machinery incidents take place annually.
Driver operation has been identified both internationally and in Ireland as one of the major causes of incidents involving tractors and machinery. Thus, provision of enhanced training on agricultural machinery is an essential tool to improve the safety record of the agriculture sector in Ireland.
Minister Heydon added: “These simulators will be a great asset in teaching students the key safety elements of operating farm machinery. The simulators will enable students to train in the operation of a range of machinery. These include tractors with different implements such as balers, mowers and tedders, and also forage harvesters, combines, and telescopic handlers, covering all the common machinery operations carried out on farms. I am confident that this investment in safety around machinery will yield dividends long into the future.”
The simulators will be used at all agricultural and horticultural colleges and will be available to students completing courses at the colleges and also to students at the universities and technological universities who use the college facilities for practical learning.
Welcoming the announcement, Teagasc Director Professor Frank O’Mara stated: “Teagasc is delighted to obtain DAFM funding for state-of-the-art machinery simulators to enhance its training programmes in health and safety. This development is very much in line with our strategy to embed digitalisation in all our programmes. We acknowledge Minister Heydon’s particular interest and leadership of this project”.
Teagasc Head of Education, Dr. Anne-Marie Butler said: “The Simulator training is becoming increasingly adopted internationally in a range of work sectors, including agriculture. Simulator use allows training in high-risk machinery use in a safe environment. Evidence also exists that simulator training with young operators cuts accident levels”.