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Farmer Health

Jim a 65 year old farmer from Tullamore suffers with a heart condition. He says “it’s not natural for men to talk about their own health” He reveals how notions of masculinity and the all-too-common situation where a trip to the pub with “mates” is substituted for a professional medical encounter.

Due to the complexity of the farming, occupational ill health may threaten from many sources

  • Infectious diseases
  • Dust and spores
  • Back injury
  • Chemicals
  • Noise.

It is important that people working in agriculture are aware of the health risks associated with farming. Signs of illness should be immediately investigated. A regular visit to the GP should be taken at least every two years. To prevent infection hand washing with warm soapy water is necessary. Cuts and abrasions should be covered.

Suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be worn when carrying out hazardous chores.

Sun protection is essential for all working in agriculture.

Mental Health for Farmers

Mental Health is vital for farmers.  Farming is a challenging occupation and farm stressors can include:

  • Isolation
  • Time pressure
  • Financial worry
  • Long working hours
  • Bureaucracy
  • Hazardous work
  • Unpredictable occurrences.

Social support has been shown  to both alleviate mental distress and help solve farming problems. Staying in contact with a health professional through having  a regular health check-up is advised. Read also  Positive Mental Health in Farming

Pain and Distress in Rural Ireland Report [161KB]

Confidential advice and help is available from many sources and should be availed of.

Helplines available to people:

  • Pieta House Helpline 1800247247
  • Samaritans 24 hour support phone 1850 609090 delivered by volunteers.

Manual Handling

Lifting material should be minimised by using mechanical means – loaders, jacks etc. Using ones back should be the last resort. All loads should be assessed. Don’t attempt to lift heavy objects without help.

8 Points for Safe Lifting

  • Assess the Task, the Area & the Load
  • Broad stable base - feet flat on floor
  • Bend Knees
  • Back Straight
  • Firm Palmer Grip
  • Arms in line with trunk
  • Weight close to centre of gravity
  • Turn feet in direction of movement


The law aims to reduce the risk of hearing loss caused by exposure to high levels of noise in the work place. This exposure may cause permanent hearing damage. Employers including farmers are required to assess the risk to employees and then put control measures in place to protect their workers and themselves. Remember hearing loss can be prevented but once the damage occurs it cannot be repaired. Noise can also be a safety hazard at work interfering with communications and making warnings harder to hear. Ear protection must be used if noise levels are above 85dB. Exposure to many different sources of noise e.g. tractors, power tools shot guns and feeding large numbers of pigs has a cumulative effect even though you may be exposed to a single source for short periods of time.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infection caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi that is transmitted to humans by bites from ticks infected with the bacteria. The infection is generally mild affecting only the skin, but can occasionally be more severe and highly debilitating.

Lyme disease can affect anyone but is commonest among those whose work or leisure activities takes place in heathland, light woodland and other grassy areas or brings them in contact with certain animals e.g. deer. Summer and autumn is the period when most cases occur.

Further Information

Older Farmers

Examine work practices – identifying dangerous areas including:

  • working with machinery
  • livestock
  • accessing heights.

Make sure older farmers are physically capable of doing the work at hand.

Read more here

Farm safety videos for older farmers