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Manage Farm Safety - Use Revised Risk Assessment

16 July 2019
Type Media Article

John McNamara, Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist,

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) issued a revised version of the “Code of Practice for Preventing Injury and Occupational Ill-Health in Agriculture”. This document is more commonly known as the ‘Farm Safety Code of Practice’. The original Code was first produced in 2006 following the passing into law of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act (SHWW), 2005.  

The revised Code reflects technical progress in the sector, changes in farming practice, equipment and accident trends since 2006. The revised code has a green cover to distinguish it from the previous version and is available from the H.S.A and Teagasc. The revised version must be completed  since the 1st January 2019.  

The revised Code of Practice (COP) is designed help farmers meet their duties under the SHWW Act 2005 in a straight forward and practical way.  It focuses in on the most common hazards and provides workable solutions that can be put in place with minimal to zero cost. The Code is comprised of two documents - a Guidance document and a working Risk Assessment Document (RAD). The Guidance document is available on the H.S.A. and Teagasc Web sites while the Risk Assessment Document (R.A.D) is available to farmers form H.S.A., Teagasc and consultants. 

It is a legal requirement to have an up-to-date RAD, and a H.S.A Inspector can inspect the document on a farm visit.  Completion of the RAD is a requirement for participation in Bord Bia Quality Assurance Schemes.  Trained staff in both Teagasc and Agricultural Consultancies provide a Half-day Training on completion of the RAD. It is a requirement of the DAFM TAMS11 for applicants to have completed the Half Day Training or the Green Cert. in the last five years prior to submission of a payment claim.   

Risk Assessment Document Evaluation

An evaluation of the original RAD and Half-day training was conducted with the following main findings:

  • Farmers view safety management as an important issue (99%)
  • RAD was easy to understand (88%).
  • Pie Charts (97%) and Pictures (96%) aided communications
  • Attendance at Half-day RAD Training worthwhile (100%).  

The data collected in indicates that farmers found the document both easy to use and useful. The study found that users filled the document meaningfully but to a limited extent with an average of 3 controls identified for implementation per farm.  Attending Half day training led to a 40 % increase in controls identified for action. An on-farm study indicated strongly that farmers who implemented the controls they identified had overall safer farms. This suggests that both identification and implementation of controls on an on-going basis is the key to safety management.  

In summary, actions needed to comply with the Risk Assessment requirement of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 are as follows:

  • If  you have already completed a RAD, fully complete and implement the new (green) RAD
  • If  you have not completed a RAD, do so as soon as possible
  • If you have not attended a Half-Day training course on the RAD you  are advised  do so as soon as possible, but it is not a legal requirement.

If your farm has more than 3 employees (count farmer, regular worker and family members who are regular workers), which  make-up 5% of farms nationally,  the legislation requires a full Safety Statement be prepared. 

Farm Safety this Summer and Autumn  

In  2019 so far 12 farm deaths have taken place according to provisional H.S.A. figures. .  Trends in farm fatal accidents indicate that July is the most dangerous month of the year with 17% of fatalities.  The following as some pointers for the most hazardous aspects of farming:

Tractors and Vehicles;

Tractors and vehicles deaths account for 30% of all farm deaths.

  • Being struck or crushed by a tractor/vehicle accounts for 72 % of vehicle and machinery farm deaths on farms. Such accidents occur principally in or around the farmyard. It’s a matter of being vigilant at all times particularly where there are blind spots or where a person can get crushed. Reduced speed reduces risk.
  • Make sure that loader attachments are properly secured so that they don’t become detached at height and collapse.
  • Make sure that bales of hay or straw are securely stacked sop that they cannot collapse. 
  • Vehicles should also be secured when stationary by lowering equipment and applying brakes/ handbrakes and applying additional controls if necessary. Vehicles can roll on even the slightest slopes.  
  • When accessing public roads make sure that the vehicle and licensing of the driver complies with the requirements of the Road Traffic Acts, In particular ensure that there is adequate visibility at farm and field entrances to view on-coming traffic. 

Farm Machinery;

Machinery related accidents account for 21% of farm deaths. Becoming entangled in a power shaft or machine partly accounts for about 9% of farm machinery related deaths. This is one of the most gruesome accidents to occur. 

  • Make sure that all power shafts and revolving machine parts are completely covered. This applies in particular to machinery such as vacuum tankers, agitators or grain rollers augers which are used when the machine is stationary .The operator could be close to the moving parts. This is by far the most dangerous position for power shaft use. 
  • Turn off all machine moving parts before ever approaching them for maintained or adjustment.
  • Never get into a crush zone between a machine and a tractor to make adjustments, as crushing causes instant death. Watch out for heavy weights when folding in or out machinery as these could crush and kill.

Animals;

Livestock accidents account for about 16 % of farm deaths. 

  • Bulls account for 15% of Livestock deaths.  Bulls when separated from the herd should not be left on their own in a shed or paddock. They should always be accompanied by companion animals.
  • Cows and heifers now account for 55% of livestock deaths. Farmers should also be vigilant when dealing with suckler cows as getting between a cow and calf can provoke a cow attack.  Always stay close to a fence or a vehicle to give you a means of escape.
  • When treating animals, make sure that crushes and handling facilities are adequate. In particular never enter a crush with an animal.

Working at Heights;

Falling from a height (10%) and collapsing loads (7%) are major causes of farm deaths.  Particular vigilance is required when working at heights. This applies particularly when tying loads of bales. 

Slurry/ Water

Drowning or Slurry Gas accounts for 9% of farm deaths .

  • Cover all slurry manholes and fence slurry tanks.
  • Only agitate and move slurry on a windy day.  

Behavioural Approach; 

The evaluation study of the RAD indicates that farmer management of safety is the essential component to prevent injury.  Farms are constantly changing places especially during the Autumn and Winter. Safety is secured by vigilance of farmers for hazardous situations which may arise.

Further Information on all Aspects of farm safety is available at the following websites;