Teagasc Commitment to Farm Safety and Health
Teagasc Director Professor Gerry Boyle called on all farmers to make farm safety a high priority to reduce the recent surge in fatalities on farms. To-date in 2010 eight workplace deaths have occurred on farms, this compares to eleven for all of 2009.
Professor Boyle was speaking at the launch of a new Teagasc Corporate Policy which commits Teagasc, at every level of the organisation from the Authority to each individual staff member, to provide leadership and compliance on health and safety, both within Teagasc and when providing training and advice to customers.
Professor Boyle said: “While accidents are caused by a multitude of factors, international studies indicate that human errors are involved in approximately 90 per cent of them. This suggests that the first and most immediate approach, to cut the shocking toll of tragedy, pain and suffering associated with farm injuries, is to dramatically heighten awareness of the causes and consequences of injury.“
Professor Boyle stated that Teagasc is working in partnership with the Health and Safety Authority and with the farm organisations to address health and safety in farming.
Specific measures being put into immediate effect are the inclusion of a presentation on health and safety at major Teagasc events, farm discussion groups and in newsletters. Professor Boyle said that particular attention will be paid to dairy farmers as a recent Teagasc/HSA study showed that 58 per cent of fatal farm accidents occurred in dairying, with just 17 per cent of farmers engaged in the enterprise. Teagasc will provide a FETAC accredited Health and Safety Training course in 2010 and which will be available to all farmers.
Speaking at the launch of the Teagasc Corporate Safety Policy, John McNamara, the organisation’s Health and Safety Officer called on farmers to proactively use the Health and Safety service provided by Teagasc. He stated that independent research shows that Teagasc is the organisation most favoured by sixty-seven per cent of farmers in relation to advice on health and safety issues; with the independent and practical nature of the service valued.
Ms Mary Dorgan, Assistant Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority, said that developing a national culture of safety and health needs a partnership approach involving all stakeholders. The Teagasc/Health and Safety Authority Joint Prevention Initiative is an example of this approach. This Initiative led to the development and evaluation of the new Farm Safety Code of Practice, and which has been implemented by almost 55,000 farmers. Ms Dorgan stated that completing the Code’s Risk Assessment is a legal requirement; however, proper ‘buy-in’ and behaviour change at farm level is crucial to the success of the approach.
Professor Jim Phelan, Dean of Agriculture and Food Science at University College Dublin said that providing training and education, backed up by research information is a vital element in achieving the culture change necessary to improve on-farm health and safety. A new module on farm health and safety has been introduced into to all agricultural science degree programmes with support from Teagasc. It is being very positively received by students, he said.