Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Farm Safety: Discussion

Photo of Martin HeydonMartin Heydon (Kildare South, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senator for his comments. He is right. The point that struck me from what he said was that no one expects a farm safety incident to happen to them. I tend to refer to incidents rather than accidents because they are unintentional but, many times when you engage with families after a tragic incident, they admit there was an element to it that was probably preventable, if an action had been taken. Not always, but sometimes that is the case and that regret is there afterwards. Members know the phrase about when you put on your boots in the morning, you never know who will take them off that night. I continuously implore farmers to be acutely aware of the risks on their farm and, when hazards are identified, to address them and not put those jobs on the long finger. No family who suffers a loss or serious injury to a loved one on a farm ever expected it to happen to them. The Senator's point on that is very valid.

His points in relation to pressure on farmers are also valid. There are many contributing pressures in the normal exercise of farming activity, for example at harvest time, with the weather, with income, to get the work done and so on. Often that leads to farmers working long hours under pressure and, in certain instances, mistakes or things that were not intended happen. We have to be mindful of those pressures, identify the risk in those areas and see where farmers can identify and mitigate those risks.

The Senator made a point about the green cert. It was a broader point, really, but I am aware, having attended Kildalton agricultural college as an active farmer 22 years ago, that I learned a lot about farm safety there, including the right way to apply a three-point linkage, safety measures around PTO shafts, agitating slurry and all the rest. I do not consider myself old but I am in my 40s and it is over 20 years since I was there. That is a challenge for us. For some farmers, it is a long time since we got farm safety training. That is why the training in the likes of TAMS is important. Every time an arm of the State or somebody like the advisers from On Feirm Ground has a connection and interaction with a farmer, we must not miss that opportunity to reinforce the points around farm safety and farmer mental health and well-being.


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