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Health and Safety on the Farm

Every year deaths and injuries occur on farms which could have been prevented and it is vital to take time to evaluate or re-evaluate ‘Health and Safety’ in relation to your own circumstances whether you have a stud farm, training facility, riding school or simply have a couple of horses at home.

In 2020, there were 20 farming workplace related deaths recorded with the ‘Health and Safety Authority’ (H.S.A). Six of these occurred in people aged between 17 and 64, and the other 14 were minors, children or farmers over 65 years of age. There was an 18% drop in farm workplace deaths over the three year period (2018-2020) compared to the previous three year period (2015-2017). Although it is good to see a decrease it is still a very high fatality rate and one we must all be aware of and improve on in every aspect.

It is very important to be aware of the appropriate legislation relating to safety whether you are an employer or an employee, and what is expected of you. Use this knowledge to then create a safe and healthy environment whereby proper standards and procedures are put in place.

It is good practice to have a functioning safety statement and it is a legal requirement if you have more than three staff working for you.

The following are the key areas to address:

  1. Risk Assessments
  2. Safety Statement
  3. Accident Reporting
  4. Induction and training

Legal Requirements

There is a legal requirement on all farmers including horse keepers, just like any other employer, to provide a safe place of work as far as is practical. The law is contained in the ‘Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005’ backed by regulations & ‘Code of Practice’ to improve farm safety.

1. Risk Assessment

Like any enterprise on the farm, health & safety requires management. A ‘Safety Statement’ or ‘Risk Assessment Document’ identifies the key dangers that may cause death or serious injury. A Risk Assessment Document is the minimum legal requirement on all farms within which a commitment is made to:

  • Provide a safe place of work
  • Use safe systems of work
  • Provide all machinery with guards, protective equipment, information, training and supervision necessary to protect those at risk
  • This document should be reviewed at least annually or when there are changes in the business.
  • If a dangerous situation arises work should stop immediately until the hazard or danger is controlled
  • Advise all who work on the farm of the hazards

Some examples of risk mitigations on stud farms include:

  • Ensure staff are inducted and trained in all the general tasks expected of them
  • Erect and keep clean appropriate signage and instructions for staff and visitors
  • Ensure Protective Protection Equipment (PPE) is both available and worn Check tack and equipment regularly for signs of wear and tear
  • Check tack and equipment regularly for signs of wear and tear
  • Ensure arenas and other infrastructure are maintained
  • Ensure adequate lighting
  • Ensure arenas and other infrastructure are maintained and kept hazard free
  • Ensure stock are handled sympathetically and with care by handlers with appropriate skill for the category of stock concerned
  • Ensure walkers and machinery are serviced and working properly
  • Store medications and any hazardous materials such as sprays or topical ointments securely.
  • Avoid working alone if possible, and where necessary always inform someone so they can check on you

2. Safety Statement

A written ‘safety statement’ is only required by farmers with more than three employees. The same commitment is given as above in the ‘Risk Assessment Document’ but requires more detail to complete.

Who has access to Safety Documents?

All people who work on the farm (including family members) must be made aware of the dangers on the farm. Dangers must also be brought to the attention of:

  • Regular Workers
  • Casual / Relief Workers
  • Contractors
  • People supplying services and goods to the farm

An Inspector from the H.S.A. may inspect safety documents and assess if safety measures are implemented on the farm. If they are found to be inadequate the Inspector can advise revision within 30 days. Prosecution is possible for non-compliance.

3. Accident Reporting

An accident is reportable to the ‘Health & Safety Authority’ if the injured employee or self-employed person is unable to work for more than three consecutive days. Weekends and other days off are included when calculating days. If an employee is absent as a result of an accident for three separate days over a period of time, it is not reportable:

Types of accidents to be reported:

  • An accident causing loss of life to any employed or self-employed person in the course of their employment.
  • An accident to an employee or self-employed person that prevents them working for more than three calendar days not including the day of the accident.
  • An accident to any person not at work caused by a work activity which causes loss of life or requires medical treatment.

4. Induction and Training

It is very important to make sure that all new members of staff are given a proper induction when they are first starting work on the stud or farm. This is to ensure that they are fully aware of the safe system of how the farm works and imperative to the safety of the individuals themselves and to others around them. Important points to cover during induction are as follows:

  • Layout of the premises and land.
  • Access and egress points.
  • Fire assembly points.
  • First aid boxes and locations.
  • System of work (who to report issues, accidents or risks to)
  • Personal Protective Equipment (P.P.E.) and machinery
  • Read safety statement
  • Evaluate experience and training
  • Explain hazards and hazardous materials, what to do and disposal

Training is a very important aspect of maintaining health and safety and must be carried out on a regular basis. Regularly training staff also ensures everyone concerned keeps up to date with relevant policy and ensures both you and your staff are prepared to carry out the active duties of the stud or farm. Key areas to address in training are:

  • Machinery – How to operate correctly and use correct P.P.E.
  • First aid – Important in and out of the workplace
  • Manual handling – In a stud or farm environment is physically demanding and can involve heavy lifting so it is imperative to be appropriately trained
  • Certification – If certain activities are carried out such as spraying (knapsack or lance boom spraying) or driving appropriate competency certification is required
  • Fire safety and associated drills

Provide and enforce mandatory training for staff, placing emphasis on reporting problems such as damaged machinery, substandard or worn tack, potential hazards and dangers that may arise to keep everyone safe in the workplace. Acknowledge and mitigate against risks as far as possible. Happy and health staff are a vital element of a productive and efficient business, no matter what the enterprise, and whether self-employed or otherwise.

Useful Link: www.hsa.ie