Almost three quarters of farmers say they have changed how they work because of farm deaths and worries over farm safety.
According to the poll, 70% of respondents said they had changed their work practices in the past year in light of the rise in farm deaths — 31% strongly agreed with this assertion while 39% agreed.
However, 19% suggested they had made no change to their work practices in light of last year’s high number of farm deaths.
There have been a number of farm deaths this year and a string of accidents which has prompted the Health and Safety Authority to look at forming regional discussion groups to try and encourage farmers to peer review the safety measures used on farms.
There does appear to be a generally high level of awareness of the need for enhanced safety in what is routinely described as the country’s most dangerous profession.
Among the oldest age group — those aged 65 and over — 66% said they have changed their methods in the past year, the lowest figure of all the age groups. Among those aged 35 to 54, 72% said they had increased their safety measures.
Those working in dairy, at 78%, are the most likely to have become increasingly safety-conscious, although the figure for the number of respondents who have increased safety levels in the past year is the same for both those with a farm-only income and those with an off-farm income, at 70%.
ICMSA president John Comer said there was a growing realisation that a much more meaningful approach had to be adopted in terms of farm health and safety, but he repeated his conviction that underling realities had to be taken into account when tackling the “horrifying statistics” around farm accidents.
Chief among those was the fact that farms are increasingly single-person concerns where the farmer is “hammered” by time and workload schedules leading to the pressures and stress that diminish awareness of safety and best practice.
Mr Comer pointed out that every evaluation has pointed to these time and workload pressures as a contributory factor in the increase in farm accidents and he said that he was absolutely convinced that moving safety onto any kind of regulatory or audit framework, or putting it within cross-compliance, was exactly the wrong thing to do.
“Adding another layer of inspection and regulation would actually increase the time and workload pressures that we all know are one of the reasons why safety isn’t given the prominence it must have,” he said.
“We need to be destressing at farm level and trying to convince farmers to take their time and farm safely. Putting safety on a regulatory footing is exactly the opposite of what needs to be done.
“We support an active and on-the-ground HSA that’s advising on best practice and bringing farmers with them through farmer meetings, seminars and information programmes. But that’s the key phrase — ‘bringing farmers with them’ — what we absolutely don’t need is any addition to the inspection, time, and stress pressures that we feel are already a contributory factor.”
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