A train the trainer approach has the potential to improve farm safety culture, a study carried out by University of Galway has found.

The study, conducted by Dr Aswathi Surendran and led by supervisor Dr Denis O’Hora, examined how to reduce farm fatalities, with particular emphasis on vehicle speed and blind spots.

Giving an overview of the study, Dr O’Hora explained that by empowering trainees about farm safety, the train the trainer model has the capacity to increase knowledge transmission and adoption, in both a time and cost-effective way.

He also said that the approach challenges the trainer to identify gaps in their own knowledge, improving the practicality of training and encourages them to adopt best practice themselves. He added that some trainers also learn from their learners, which is an added benefit.

Acknowledging that it has its limitations, O’Hora said that there is a “burden on farmers who are becoming trainers”, and that “it takes time and energy”. He also admitted that because there is less oversight on the training, that “training might not be accurate”.

Some 44% of farm fatalities were caused by farm vehicles from 2013 to 2023, with vehicle speed and visibility due to blind spots being a major contributory factor.

Training sessions

Three experimental training sessions were held as part of the study, in which 19 farmers participated.

In an exercise described as “eye opening”, which required the farmer trainees to estimate the stopping distance at a speed of 7km/hr, 84% underestimated and nobody overestimated the correct stopping distance, proving the need to demonstrate stopping distances on their farms.

With regards to farm vehicle blind spots, an exercise was completed in groups of three on identifying blind spots using the model of a child. The size and position of the blind spots caused a “sense of misbelief”, leading to an increased awareness of the issue.

The farmer trainees then participated in a discussion session where it was considered how best to train on their farms.

They agreed to comply with a “voluntary training procedure agreement” with people participating in training. This was designed to gain a shared sense of responsibility and set clear actionable goals for the training sessions.

A total of 90% (17) of the trainee farmers provided follow-up training to an average of 2.47 people.

With over 135,000 farms and 270,000 people working or living on these farms, John McNamara of Teagasc highlighted the potential to use the train the trainer approach to improve farm safety culture.