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From Research to Practice Supporting Farmer Health and Farm Safety



          From Research to Practice Session 1 – Chaired by Pat Grifin (HSA)

  1. Farm Fatalities in Context
  2. lrish Farmer Health and Safety Culture
  3. Risk Farmer-to Farmer Support Stimulates Safe and Health - Protectve Farming Practices
  4. Human-Animal Interactions with Implications for Farmer Safety During Cattle Handling

    From Research to Practice Session 2 – Chaired by David Meredith

  5. The Farmers Have Hearts Cardiovascular Health Programme: An Outreach Approach to Engage Farmers in Cardivascular health 
  6. Developing Safety Behaviour Prediction: A Pathway Towards Farm Saftey Culture in Ireland 
  7. Developing behavioural Farm Safety Interventions for Machinery-related RisksInformed by Farmers' Experiences and International Best Evidence 
  8. 'The Most Important Cog in the Wheel': Prioritising Farmers' Health Through a Bespoke Training Programme

1. Farm Fatalities in Context

 Dr David Meredith (Teagasc), Dr Mohammad MohammadRezaei, Dr Denis O’Hora (UCG) & Dr John McNamara

Abstract: This presentation develops the context for understanding occupational safety amongst farmers in Ireland through a review of the Health and Safety Authority fatality surveillance dataset. A descriptive overview of these data considers trends over the 2004 – 2018 period before detailing the characteristics of those killed in farm accidents by way of developing a context for later presentations. Drawing on work completed for the BeSafe Project, a number of occupational fatality rates are presented. These provide an estimate of fatalities (the numerator) controlled for the relevant population (the denominator) to facilitate communication and comparison. Farming fatality rates (FFRs) are deceptively difficult to ascertain since there are a variety of appropriate numerators and denominators due to the unique composition of the farm labour force and the co-location of farm businesses and households. Taking farm deaths in Ireland between 2004 – 2018 as a test case, the current paper details a number of critical issues with regard to the calculation and interpretation of farm fatality rates, proposes a series of potential rates and provides recommendations for their usage and communication.

Download link:Meredith et al.

2. Irish Farmer Health and Safety Culture

 Dr John McNamara (Teagasc)

Abstract: Improving Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) among farmers in Ireland, who are predominantly self-employed or small-scale operators, depends predominantly on their work related and management culture (McNamara, 2015).  Culture is formed from beliefs, values and behaviours and in practice is reflected in ‘how things are done’ at a workplace. This study seeks to gain knowledge on the prevailing safety culture among Irish farmers.  A previously validated farm safety culture survey (Colémont & Van den Broucke, 2008) was used with minimum change to reflect Irish terminology.  The survey used Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) methodology.  The Irish Survey is part of a pan European OSH culture and risk management in agriculture survey being conducted by Working Group 2 of EU COST Action CA16123 (web- www.sacurima.ie ) chaired by Prof. Stephan Van den Broucke, UCL, Belgium.  The Survey was conducted on-line, with farmers aged 18 or older eligible to participate.  In total 228 questionnaires were completed (target 200). Preliminary finding include: 38% of farmers give safety higher priority than ‘on-time’  work completion and 54% discuss ‘ways to improve OSH’ with other farmers. Implementation of safety measures was highest for ‘keeping children away from livestock’ (95%) and ‘use of livestock handling equipment’ (94%). Lower implementation was reported for ‘keeping floors non-slip’ (65%); ‘using PPE’ (71%); keeping machinery in safe order ( 73%); ‘checking route before carrying heavy load’ (73%) and ‘using  PTO guarding’ (80%). Overall the study indicates limitations in adoption of culture related measures among Irish farmers. Further analysis of the study data, in line with TPB protocols, will yield further knowledge to assist with improving OSH among Irish farmers.

Download link: McNamara

3. Farmer-to-farmer support stimulates safe and health-protective farming practices 

 Dr Tracey O’Connor

Abstract: Accident and illness rates are consistently high in agriculture, including dairy farming. Meanwhile, employment in the dairy sector is expected to grow over the next five years, underlining the necessity to promote farm safety and health (FSH) for the sustainability of the sector. This study investigated FSH promotion in dairy discussion groups (DDGs) including: i) voluntary, farmer-driven engagement with FSH, ii) systematic, multi-actor design of a group-based FSH engagement intervention, resulting in two intervention approaches differing in frequency and duration of FSH discussions, and iii) a pilot trial of the intervention in DDGs, using pre- and post-trial surveys to evaluate farmers’ implementation of safe farming practices and their capabilities, motivation and opportunities to implement one particular behaviour, exiting a tractor backwards keeping three points of contact with the vehicle. The study found that most DDGs voluntarily engaged with FSH, even if briefly, indicating interest in group-based FSH engagement. The study also found that group-based FSH promotion can influence farmers’ perceptions and intentions towards, and implementation of, safe farming practices. The results indicate that facilitators play an influential role in the outcomes of group-based FSH discussions. Group-based FSH promotion involving engaging, well-resourced facilitators, can be a valuable addition to a comprehensive FSH promotion strategy.

Download link: O'Connor

4. Human-animal interactions with implications for farmer safety during cattle handling

 Dr Bernie Earley, Ms Niamh Woods and Dr Marijke Beltman (Teagasc and UCD)

Abstract: Human-animal interactions (HAI) can be defined as the relationship or interaction between a human and an animal. The level of fearfulness of animals will impact how they interact with humans and whether interactions are determined as positive or negative. Fearfulness is determined by the experiences an animal has gained in their lifetime in association with their individual genetic disposition. In this study, fear responses were assessed over time in cattle of varied origin (beef bred v dairy bred; home bred v purchased), age, gender and production system; using a number of validated tests, designed to measure crush agitation (CA), exit speed from the crush (ES) and avoidance distance at the feed face (AD). Of the three tests, avoidance distance (AD) was a more sensitive measure of the HAI and how cattle perceive humans, whether they are familiar or unfamiliar. Development of a positive HAI (low levels of fear in animals and high levels of confidence in humans) can be beneficial e.g. the presence of a familiar human, providing gentle handling may calm animals in potentially aversive situations (e.g. isolation, calving) thereby reducing distress and risk of injury to the animal and the human.

Download link: Woods et al.

5. The Farmers Have Hearts Cardiovascular Health Programme: an outreach approach to engage farmers in cardiovascular health

 Diana van Doorn, Dr Noel Richardson, Dr David Meredith, Dr John McNamara, Dr Catherine Blake and Dr Aoife Osborne

Abstract: Irish male farmers are a high risk group for premature cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality and morbidity which impacts directly on farming productivity and farming income. Adverse lifestyle habits leading to health issues such high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, Diabetes Type 2 and obesity are associated with up to 80% of CVD. The Farmers Have Hearts Cardiovascular Health Programme (FHH-CHP) is a comprehensive workplace health intervention for farmers. It comprises a baseline health check, a health behaviour change intervention (health coach by phone and/or M (Mobile)-health by text messages) based on self-selection, and a repeat health check at 52-weeks. The FHH-CHP aims to examine whether participation in the programme results in (i) effective follow-up use of GP services; (ii) health behaviour change and/or (iii) reduced CVD risk. A participation rate of 86.4% (n=868/1005) demonstrates that farmers actively engaged with the programme. At baseline, 74% of farmers had four or more risk factors for CVD, placing them at higher risk for an acute cardiac event compared to those with fewer risk factors. This finding underpins the need for the FHH-CHP and the importance of adopting an outreach approach to support farmers with making sustainable health behaviour changes to improve their cardiovascular health.

Download link: Van Doorn

6. Developing Safety Behaviour Prediction: A Pathway Towards Farm Safety Culture in Ireland (BeSafe)

 Dr Mohammad Mohammadrezaei & Dr David Meredith

Abstract: Occupational safety represents a challenge in most workplaces as it an outcome of complex interactions between human, environment and task specific factors. Though the design of safe work places and work processes are critical to occupational safety it is increasingly recognised that human behaviour is central to occupational safety. Behaviour is shaped by values, beliefs, perceptions, attitudes and societal norms. A variety of theories and approaches have been developed that seek to shape worker safety through education and training initiatives. The nature of farming represents a challenge to these approaches as farmers are, generally, self-employed, work alone for long periods, learn by doing, and exposed to a wide variety of workplace risks hazards including the built and natural environment, tractors and machinery , and changing climatic conditions. This presentation considers the broader social and environmental context which farmers work before outlining an approach that will be used to identify and evaluate those factors shaping farmers behaviours that contribute to their occupational safety and safer farms. 

Download link: Mohammadrezaei

7. Developing behavioural farm safety interventions for machinery-related risks informed by farmers’ experiences and international best evidence

 Aswathi S, Dr Denis O’Hora, Dr Jennifer McSharry, Dr John McNamara & Dr David Meredith

Abstract: The Farm Safety Action Plan (HSA; 2016) identified tractors (29%) and machinery (19%) as two of the major causes of farm deaths in the 10-year period from 2006 to 2015. In line with the BeSafe focus on the behavioural component of farm safety, the current project will review the efficacy of previous machinery-related farm safety interventions and develop novel behavioural interventions for the Irish context informed by past evidence, farmer experience and expert stakeholder engagement. Preliminary results of a systematic review indicate that machinery is not always a core focus of farm safety interventions with most interventions aiming to address farm safety alongside a broad range of other hazards. Educational interventions were the most common approach and interventions have not been tailored to particular demographic groups, except for children. Data from Task 5 indicates older farmers (above 60) are at higher risk from farm accidents than younger farmers and this group might benefit from interventions more focused to their concerns and needs. Focus groups of farmers will be recruited in the coming quarter to inform development of novel farm safety interventions. Expert stakeholder opinions will be gathered in the first half of 2021 to ensure the interventions developed are acceptable and feasible for delivery in Ireland.

Download link: O'Hora et al.

8. The most important cog in the wheel': prioritising farmers’ health through a bespoke training programme

Conor Hammersley, Dr Noel Richardson, Dr Paula Carroll, Dr John McNamara & Dr David Meredith

Abstract: Compared to other occupational groups, farmers in Ireland experience a disproportionate burden of health problems, which impact on farmers’ livelihoods and undermine the profitability and sustainability of farming. This study sought to explore issues impacting on farmers’ health with a view to informing the design of a bespoke farmers’ health training programme. Four focus groups were conducted with both farmers (n=20) and agricultural advisors (n=25), two with farming organisations (n=12) and one with female ‘significant others’ (n=7). Findings suggest farmers faced a number of unique challenges that undermine the autonomy they exercise over their enterprise and, in turn, their masculine identity. These included the uncertainty and additional caring responsibilities associated with succession; for some, unmanageable workloads and chronic financial stress associated with scale; the perception of being increasingly dictated by regulatory frameworks within farming against a backdrop of changing farming roles; the loss of ‘meitheal’ or peer support and increasing levels of isolation and loneliness within faming. Approaches to farmers’ health should acknowledge the unique culture and stresses associated with farming. Additionally, farmers’ health should be part of a broader cultural shift that places the wellbeing of farmers at the centre of farm productivity and farming business success.

Download link:Hammersley et al. 

Nudging: Applying what we know about how people think (or don't think) to improve farm safety