The Farm Safety Action Plan for 2021-2024 has been released with the aim of reducing the number of farm fatalities, farmer injuries and illnesses in those employed in agriculture.

The plan has identified five key areas - primarily relating to the handling of livestock and the operation of farm machinery - in which critical progress can be made in lowering the incidence of farm safety incidents.

The five critical areas identified for action were:

  • Behaviour, education and training.
  • Health and vulnerable persons.
  • Tractors and high-risk machinery.
  • Livestock handling.
  • Buildings and working at heights.
  • The plan was published by the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee (FSPAC), an expert group of farm representatives which advises the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) on farm incident prevention.

    Speaking at the release of the plan, FSPAC chair Ciaran Roche stated that while some improvements have been seen in farm incident trends, many areas still require significant progress to be made.

    “The FSPAC has made considerable progress in raising awareness of farm safety. There is also recognition that safety standards across the sector show signs of improvement,” Roche commented.

    “However, reducing the overall rate of fatal and serious injuries in the agriculture sector has been slow,” he added.

    High-risk environment

    The plan’s release coincides with the HSA publishing its review of work-related deaths in agriculture in Ireland from 2011-2020, which found that farming has been the occupation suffering the highest number of workplace fatalities in the past decade.

    Some of the factors outlined by the plan to be contributing to a high incidence of workplace safety incidents were the dangers posed to farmers by large animals, heavy machinery and slurry gases, as well as the reality that most farmers work alone.

    Busy periods

    The review also found that farm accidents occurred more frequently in the busier spring and summer times than at other periods of the farming calendar and that elderly farmers were more likely to be involved in fatal farm safety incidents.

    Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Martin Heydon said at the plan's launch that farmers should take the time to complete a risk assessment of the dangers present on their farms as work for the summer season winds down.

    “On reviewing the recent HSA review of work-related deaths in agriculture in Ireland, we can see that almost half of all farm deaths involve tractors and other farm machinery.

    “As we move between seasons, now is an opportune time for farmers to carry out safety checks on machinery that will be in use in the coming weeks,” the Minister advised.

    The FSPCA's Farm Safety Action Plan can be found here, while the HSA's review of agriculture-related fatalities can be read in full here.