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Using NUDGE theory to improve Farm Safety

A leading USA expert will outline the potential of Nudge theory to improve Farm Safety at a forthcoming Teagasc Webinar. Dr Julie Sorensen, Director of the New York Centre for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH) will provide a seminar on research that applies Nudge Theory to the challenge of farm safety.

The webinar will take place on Thursday, July 1, 2021 from 15.00 – 16:30. All persons are welcome to attend and participate in this free Webinar by registering online at the following link: https://www.teagasc.ie/news--events/national-events/events/besafe-seminar.php

This webinar is the fourth in a series of International BeSafe research webinars, organised by Teagasc. BeSafe is a Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine funded Research Stimulus project on behaviours for improved farm safety.  

Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize in 2017 for his work on Nudge Theory in behavioural economics. Thaler’s work shows that in making decisions, most people have biases and take short cuts and that they can be encouraged, or “nudged” towards making better and more rational decisions. 

Farming is Ireland’s most dangerous occupation. In an average year, 21 people die due to farm workplace injuries and the Teagasc National Farm Survey estimates that 2,500 people annually experience serious injuries, some of which are life altering. This situation is reflective of conditions internationally.

Whilst, regulation, education and training support the development of a safe farming culture, there is a growing international interest in behaviour initiatives that encourage, or ‘nudge’ farmers to adopt safer work practices and bring about a successful and sustainable reduction in farm injuries and fatalities.

Dr Sorensen is currently leading an international study focusing on the use of ‘nudging’ with partners from Ireland, Belgium and Denmark. She will focus on ‘Applying What We Know About - How People Think (or Don’t Think) to Improve Farm Safety’. Dr John McNamara, Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist is a member of the project team.

Speaking in advance of the Webinar, Dr Sorensen said, “Most of our decisions and subsequent behaviours are heavily influenced by our habits which are, in turn, shaped by the environment or culture within which we live and work. We have been working with farmers to design practical solutions that reduce the risk of injuries by carefully understanding what shapes their behaviours and putting in place simple systems that enable them to make decisions that lead to better safety outcomes.”

Dr David Meredith of Teagasc and Principal Investigator of the BeSafe project stated: “This is a fantastic opportunity to learn more on the ongoing research which is being undertaken in the USA and the EU that is directed at farmers to help them to get a better understanding of how to improve safety by redesigning work systems and processes. This research is relevant to a wide range of people, not only those with a specific interest in farmer health and safety.”