The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will begin two weeks of farm inspections from Monday 15 November to Friday 26 November, with a focus on helping farmers to work safely at heights.

According to the HSA, over the last 10 years, 11 fatalities have occurred on farms as a result of working at a height.

The main risks when working at height are falls, either from ladders, through fragile roofs or unprotected edges of roofs. Ladders should only be used as a means of access or for work of very short duration.

Ideally, where farmers are undertaking the work themselves, they should use a mobile elevating work platform or scaffolding to undertake the work safely.

HSA inspectors will be reminding farmers of the serious risks involved in any work at height, even-short duration jobs, and will advise farmers to use the safest possible means of doing this work.

Significant risk

Pat Griffin, senior inspector with the Health and Safety Authority, said a lot of work at height on farms takes place on shed roofs, many of which are either entirely or partially made from fragile materials.

"Working on these roofs carries significant risk and farmers must carefully plan and organise their work to ensure their safety and health.

“Ideally, farmers should avoid carrying out work at height at all and use a competent contractor who will have the equipment and expertise to do the work safely. But where farmers have no option but to carry out the work themselves, there are basic precautions that must be taken.

"A fall from a height can lead to a very serious life-changing injury or even death, taking shortcuts or carrying out the work without due regard to the risks involved is not an option.”

Factors to take into account when assessing the risk of roof work include:

  • Roof lights which may have been obscured by paint.
  • Repairs carried out in the past which may have weakened the roof.
  • Metal roof sheets which may have deteriorated with age.
  • Wood wool slabs which may have been damaged over time by water.