The current spate of life-altering and life-ending tragedies on farms must be reversed.
That’s the view of European Parliament member, Máiréad McGuinness, who said the mind-set on Irish farms needed to change.
She was presenting the All Ireland Occupational Safety Awards at a ceremony in Mullingar attended by recipients from more than 100 organisations.
Ms McGuinness, a vice president of the European Parliament, said there was undeniably a safety problem on Irish farms.
“And the onus is on all of us who work in farming and within the agricultural sector to do something about it,” she said.
Noting that more than 22 lives had already been lost this year in farming-related accidents, she said it was time to look more deeply at how to change the current mind-set on Irish farms.
“Our biggest asset in Ireland is our family farming structure, but we have to ask ourselves — is the family farm ethos part of the problem? Currently, we do not treat it like we do other workplaces in terms of health and safety, with an inclination towards less rigidity in terms of procedures... and training. This is something which may need to change if lives are to be saved,” she said.
Ms McGuinness said safety was but one part of the story. Health was equally important, and here too, there was a need to increase awareness about health and how working lives could impact on it.
“In some ways, health and safety can unfairly earn a bad name, arising from excessive bureaucracy in some quarters.
“We have to acknowledge that — but not let it detract from the vital need for health and safety awareness,” she said.
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