A new peer-to-peer mentor approach to farm safety, health and wellbeing has proved extremely successful during a year-long European Innovation Partnership (EIP) agriculture project which targeted farmers in Tipperary, Wexford and Cork.

The project investigated farmers’ attitudes and behaviours towards farm safety by creating a network for farmers to exchange knowledge, create a buddy system and share safer working practices.

Headed up by Irish Rural Link, the project was also in association with the Biodiversity Regeneration in a Dairying Environment (BRIDE) project, the Duncannon Blue Flag Farming and communities Scheme, the New Futures Farming Group and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

Farmers4Safety – Managing Risk Together featured six part-time mentors who were at the centre of the project.

The mentors, who were farmers themselves, organised a range of activities to promote farm safety and engaged in on-farm visits with the farmers.

Highlighting her experience as a farm mentor was Mary Oakley from Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, who saw great value in going out to the farms and speaking to farmers one to one. “They [farmers] are much more comfortable in their own yards and also most of them don’t have the time to attend events.

“I think they are under so much pressure and always caught for time.

“By bringing information to them such as the risk assessment documents, we made it easier for them to access information,” she said.

Project manager Niamh Nolan from Irish Rural Link said that the six part-time mentors were key drivers of the change on the ground, visiting farm families, assisting with completing the code of practice risk assessment document, organising events and workshops, and attending shows, discussion groups and creating regional WhatApp groups in the catchment areas.

CEO of Irish Rural Link Séamus Boland said that because the mentors come from farming backgrounds, farmers felt more comfortable talking to them and more inclined to listen and take advice on improving the safety of their farms from a peer rather than a farm inspector.