Farming – A High-Risk Career. This is What is Changing.
By Martin Heydon, Minister of State with responsibility for Farm Safety
At the time of writing, there have been seventeen fatal incidents on farms in 2020. Seventeen families and communities are dealing with needless and untimely bereavement in the most difficult circumstances imaginable. We need to make a change.
The government has stepped up its work to encourage a change in farmer behaviour and culture in relation to all aspects of farm safety. For the first time, a dedicated ministerial portfolio for farm safety has been established in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
I have the honour of being the first Minister appointed with responsibility for that portfolio. As a farmer myself, I have seen the impact of fatal farm incidents on families and communities. Accidents on farms account for nearly 50% of all workplace fatalities every year, despite the fact that farmers represent only 6% of the workforce.
We cannot allow this to continue. If we are to effect real change, we need to have an honest conversation about the factors that contribute to farm accidents.
High Risk Farming
Farmers often work in high-risk environments, with heavy machinery, or large animals, or landscape features that can cause injury or death. In many instances, routine behaviours that are instinctive as a result of years of repetition, usually without incident, can contribute to moments of inattention that can lead to accidents.
Reducing risk requires a very deliberate and conscious reflection on the potential dangers when we undertake any task, even when working under pressure. Thinking in this way involves profound behavioural and cultural change, but it can be done. There may also be work practices that are obviously unsafe and therefore simply unacceptable.
In my role as Minister of State with responsibilities for Farm Safety I will be considering all options and working closely with the HSA to promote and drive the required change. It is already clear to me that this cannot be done without the support and engagement from farmers. I look forward to working closely with farm communities in the coming years to change things for the better.
New Farming Initiatives
Several initiatives I am currently developing are set to make a big impact, for example, a new €1 million programme which will be launched to fund locally led farm safety projects. Additionally, I will roll out a major farm training initiative which will see over 50,000 farmers across the country access farm safety training. Thirdly, I am delighted to have been able to launch the ‘On Feirm Ground’ initiative, which takes a ‘train the trainer’ approach to developing and implementing a programme to help farmers to prioritise their own health and wellbeing.
To learn more about the ‘On Feirm Ground’ programme, click here.
Check out our article on Seawater Farming.