Government sources have revealed plans to strengthen links between safety and health and other EU policies, in sectors such as agriculture that have a high workplace accident record.
Gerald Nash, the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, said that this was discussed with Marianne Thyssen, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, during early December, in the context of the increased rate of fatalities on Irish farms.
He also welcomed moves by EU Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, to consider how CAP incentives may be linked to compliance with farm-safety practices. Irish farm deaths in 2014 were the highest level in 20 years.
2014 was the fifth year Irish farming had the highest level of work-related fatalities, with over half of all Irish workplace deaths being on farms.
Mr Nash said that the Health and Safety Authority had invested between €264,481 and €589,870 each year on farm-safety initiatives, since 2011. The number of agriculture inspections or investigations since 2011 totalled 11,586, varying from 2,644 last year to 3,136 in 2012.
Farm inspections fell last year to 2,644, from 2,748 in 2013, at the request of farmer-representative groups, with the HSA, instead, rolling out a series of farm talks, to which resources normally invested in inspections were assigned.
Fifty such talks were held and were attended by 2,000 farmers.
Mr Nash has also welcomed the new approach to enforcement by the Authority, by which it will — on a case-by-case basis — consider going straight to prosecution on matters of a very high risk of serious injury or death.
Farmers will face prosecution for carrying a child under the age of seven in the cab of a tractor or any agricultural machine; for any part of a PTO shaft being found uncovered; and if any access point to a slurry pit is uncovered.
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