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Farmer Safety Health and Wellness Webinar Series: John McNamara

Carbery Group, Cork recently held a Webinar on Farm Safety, Health and Wellness for farmer suppliers in advance of a busy spring. The Event is shown as a series of Webinars for 3 Sundays in March. Last up is John McNamara, Teagasc Health & Safety Specialist on managing farm safety and health on farm

Speakers included Steve Redmond, first person to complete the ‘Seven Ocean’s Challenge’; Rena Buckley, winner of a record 18 All Ireland Medals and John McNamara, Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist. Each Webinar takes 15 minutes approx.

Teagasc is indebted to Carbery Group for permission to use the Webinars.

John McNamara

Lastly it's the turn of John McNamara, Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist, to advise on Managing Farm Safety and Health on Your Farm

John McNamara, Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist, starts his presentation by outlining the horrific consequences of  Farm Injures including Tragedy, Pain and Suffering, Disability, Income Loss for the Farm Family.  He added ‘people like to put these consequences to the back of our minds; this is in nobody’s best interests. It is crucial that everyone manages farm health and safety continually to prevent injury and ill health’.

He also states that with the on-going COVID-19 pandemic it is important to follow HSE Guidelines on preventing COVID spread. The farming community is vulnerable due to both its age and ill health profiles.

Work Organisation

John points out that several studies have shown that ‘Farmers forget about Safety when pressure comes on’. It is important that buildings, facilitates and equipment match the workload.  Steve Redmond in his presentation talked about farmers working 18-hour days and it consequences.  In the short term, excessively long hour’s leads to tiredness, which in turn leads to heightened injury risk, he stated.  

He also used a graphic to illustrate ‘work on a farm’.  He highlighted that farms are very dynamic work places with many moving objects –machinery, livestock, loads as well as people.  An injury occurs when energy is imparted to the human body, such as a blow from a falling bale or from an animal attack.   It is crucial that the farmer strongly adopts the role of ‘Safety Manager’ to manage farm safety.  Where this does not take place, ‘a farm can become a continuing danger zone’.  Safety behaviour is crucial to prevent injury – get everyone on the farm to adopt safety behaviours. Stop unsafe behaviours.

Lessons from Farm Injury Trends

Last year 20 farm deaths took place on Irish farms with one additional fatality reported since recording the lecture.  Three childhood fatal injuries took place, which is an increase on recent trends.   Overall, the trends indicate an increasing trend in fatal injuries among farmers aged 65 years or older.  It is important for farmer families to be conscious of the work involvement of older farmers and their presence on the farm when hazardous work is in progress.  Trends indicate a decline in fatal injuries among farmers in the working generation (ages 17-64), however, he stated, that vigilance is required to continue to drive this trend downwards.

Non-Fatal Injuries

Data on farm injuries from Teagasc NFS surveys indicate that dairy farms (18%) have the highest injury rate, for the previous 5 years.  Tillage is the next highest with 12% followed by sheep (11%) and cattle (8%) farms. He points out that the majority of injuries reported in NFS surveys are serious requiring hospitalisation and loss of work time. 

Major causes of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in recent years include being struck or crushed by farm vehicles or machines and increased numbers of cow attacks.    

Risk Assessment

John points out both the importance and usefulness of completing a Risk Assessment.  Firstly, it is a legal requirement to conduct a risk assessment and to update it on a regular basis but at least annually.  A Safety Statement is required if a farm has more than three workers.

 The key objective of conducting a Risk Assessment/ Safety Statement is to identify hazards, assess risks and specify control measures to reduce the possibility of an injury or ill health to the lowest possible level.  John emphasised that ‘this is not a tick box exercise – to be of value a Risk Assessment must be genuinely focused on risk reduction and necessary control measures should be implemented without delay.  Our research indicates that farmers who implement controls on a continuing basis have the safest farms, he stated.

Farmer Health

John completed his talk by presenting the findings of a major Irish Study, which indicated that farmers have high levels of premature mortality due to both Cardiovascular Disease and Cancers.  At least 60% of the risk associated with these diseases can be controlled by taking preventative action in good time, he stated. A Health Booklet for Farmers ‘Staying Fit for Farming’ (PDF) is available here. Your Health is your Wealth, he concluded.

Further information is available at: Teagasc Farm Health and Safety and https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Your_Industry/Agriculture_Forestry/

Full Farmer Safety, Health & Wellness Webinar - 3 Part Series

Part 1: Steve Redmond, first person to complete the gruelling ‘Seven Ocean’s Challenge’.  Steve speaks firstly of what motivated him to take on the Challenge. He then outlines the leadership and organisational challenges need to support the Challenge. He then outlines what lessons there are for farmers in running their farming operations. Steve’s twitter handle is @iswimcoldwater  and facebook page is : https://www.facebook.com/SteveRedmondSwims

Part 2: Rena Buckley, winner of a record  18 All Ireland Senior Camogie and Football Medals, and Chartered Physiotherapist. Rena describes the exercise and diet required to prevent injury and stay healthy. She also describes the common forms of musculoskeletal injury that she see among farmers in her physiotherapy practice. Rena’s twitter handle is @Rena bucks and facebook is https://www.facebook.com/RenaBucks

Part 3: John McNamara, Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist, give up-to-date information on both farm injuries and ill health. He then goes on to describe motivational prevention strategies.  He points out that ‘total health model’ where both health and safety are promoted is the best approach for farming.  John publishes farmer health and safety in Teagasc magazines and on the Teagasc twitter include link and Facebook Include link pages.

See links below for more in Part 1 and  Part 2 from Sunday 14th March and Sunday 21st March on #TeagascDaily