Students lead the way in farm safety innovation
Some of the most recent examples of farm safety innovation have come from third-level and second-level students across Ireland.

The focus of Farm Safety Week 2018 is to encourage good practice in farm safety and demonstrate how a safety conscious environment decreases the risk of an accident occurring. Constant strides are being made towards improving farm safety with innovation. Some of the most recent examples come from third-level and second-level students across Ireland.

Corey Breen developed a slurry alarm to warn of high levels of toxic gas.

Slurry alarm

Corey Breen, who studies agricultural science in UCD, has designed a slurry alarm which detects dangerous levels of potentially lethal gas released during agitation.

The idea is that the alarm would detect slurry gas once it reached a certain threshold telling people it is not safe to enter the shed. The alarm would then turn off once the levels were safe again. “It would be ideal to protect outsiders and young children who may venture down to the farmyard,” said Corey.

PTO sensor

Paul Donegan of IT Tralee has designed a detection system to disengage PTO shafts from operation in times of danger.

Paul Donegan, who has worked with machinery for 40 years, designed a PTO sensor.
With an orange and a red sensor, once the operator enters the perimeters set by the sensors, the PTO will disengage and have to be started from the cab of the tractor again. Six deaths out of the 64 machinery-related fatalities were due to entanglement in PTO shafts.

Both Corey Breen and Paul Donegan are part of the annual ESB farm safety challenge. The winner of this year’s competition will be decided at the National Ploughing Championships. Second-level students took part in the student enterprise national final day in May of this year and several entries prioritised farm safety in their innovation.

Lift arm assist

Edward Daly, Matthew O’Sullivan and John O’Brien from Kilkenny have developed an adaption to the lift arms of tractors.

Lift arm assist creators Matthew O'Sullivan, Edward Daly and John O'Brien at this year's National Enterprise Awards.
A hydraulic ram replaces the adjustable stabiliser arms of the tractor. The ram is controlled by the spool valves in the tractor and can push the arms in and out to the desired width. It is both labour saving and more efficient, according to Edward Daly. “We got the inspiration from our experience on farms. With John being a dairy farmer with only one tractor, it was taking a lot of time to change implements.” The product is marketed as a safety and labour saving device. Lift arm assist was the winner of the intermediate national enterprise award 2018.

The roofing safety bar

The invention created by Darragh Canny and Sean Keogh of St Patrick’s Classical School in Navan allows roofers to work safely without restricting the capability for work.

A roofing safety bar developed by Sean Keogh and Darragh Canny aims to stop falls from roofs during work.

The user can slide along the roof while being safely attached to the roofing safety bar (RSB), which is clamped on to the gable ends of the structure.

Falling from heights accounts for a significant amount of deaths in the workplace. The inspiration for the idea came from the first-hand experience Darragh and Sean had from their construction and farming backgrounds. “We both had summer jobs involved in construction and agriculture. We saw the safety measures that exist but we realised once you go up on a scaffold you are incredibly vulnerable,” said Darragh. The RSB came second in the national enterprise awards and featured in the BT Young Scientist Award 2018. The product is patented and stress-tested by engineers.

Darragh pointed out the strong overlap between the construction and agricultural industries when it comes to falling from heights.

Reel Easy

Reel Easy is a product designed by students Shane Dobson, Shane Hagan, Daniel Doherty, Shane Grimes and Luke Horson of Moyne Community School in Co Longford.

Shane Hagan and Daniel Doherty with their product Reel Easy.
The device aims to save time and remove the stress from a tedious job. The device tensions wire or tape when transferring it from a spool to a reel.

According to Daniel Doherty, “the focus of the product is to turn the two-person job into a one-person job.”

The product can save time on a farm and when it comes to farm safety, slowing down and taking your time can save lives. Having young people as the ambassadors for farm safety is important if the number of fatalities are to come down.

The student enterprise programme is run by the Local Enterprise Office every year. More information about the products is available on

Are you up to date with farm safety?
Every farm in Ireland is required to have a farm safety statement and it needs to be updated annually, writes Peter Varley.

With the long nights now well and truly here, most of us have more time to reflect on the year gone by and catch up on some paperwork. It is a great opportunity to see how the year has gone financially for the farm and plan for the year ahead. Why not make farm safety improvements part of those plans? It is an area we can all improve upon, not only regarding the farm facilities but we also need to make it part of our everyday psyche. Preparing for the first time, or updating the farm safety statement, will help to get the ball rolling on farm safety if you want to take the area seriously. Besides, all farmers are required by law to:

  • Identify the hazards and assess the risks on their farm.
  • Draw up a written safety statement setting out the arrangements and resources provided to safeguard the safety and health of persons on the farm.
  • A risk assessment document was sent out to every farmer in the country in the past but it is also available online. This document summarises the common areas on the farm that need assessment. To fill out the form, ideally you should walk around the farm and write down anything that needs attention.

    A safety statement should be reviewed annually at least and kept by the farmer at their home.

    Identify the hazards

    According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), a hazard is anything (or any work activity) that has the potential to cause harm or injury. Therefore, it does not have to be a physical hazard – it can also be a hazardous activity. Examples of common hazards on farms include moving parts of machinery, working at heights, slurry tanks (drowning, gases), or over-head powerlines. Less obvious hazards include untidy yards and workshops. In terms of farming activities, you need to look out for excessive noise which workers might be exposed to in the long term. Diseases such as farmer’s lung, brucellosis, Weil’s disease and toxoplasmosis are some of the more serious diseases found in the farming population.

    Carry out a risk assessment

    Once you have established the hazards, you can then determine the likelihood of them causing harm or resulting in negative consequences for someone’s health. The HSA has outlined a number of questions you can ask yourself when it comes to determining this likelihood:

  • Is anyone exposed to the hazard? Who is exposed… children? Skilled worker?
  • Is the hazard likely to cause injury?
  • Is the hazard well controlled?
  • What training has been provided?
  • Decide prevention and control measures

    With the hazards identified and level of risk each hazard represents, you can then decide how best to prevent any harm coming from them. It might be just a case of arranging more training or it could involve more effort/investment:

  • Fence off/contain the hazard (eg fence a slurry pit, fit guard over PTO shaft).
  • Replace the hazard with something less hazardous (eg AI service to replace the stock bull).
  • Provide training and/or supervision.
  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) or clothing.
  • Record your findings

    Record the more significant hazards and the most important conclusions from your risk assessment in your farm safety statement. This should be reviewed and updated throughout the year. Work practices may change, and new equipment or substances may be introduced.


    The HSA usually carries out targeted farm inspections throughout the year. This year, it undertook three targeted agriculture inspection campaigns during 2018:

  • February: livestock safety.
  • May: vehicle safety.
  • October: safe working at heights.
  • The inspector may go through the safety statement with the farmer to ensure all safety aspects were taken into consideration during the inspection.

    At the end of the inspection, the inspector can give verbal advice on aspects of farm safety that need attention.

    A written report or notice can also be issued with a deadline to comply with the recommendations. On re-inspection, if the farmer has not made any attempt to comply with the inspector’s recommendations, it will be seen as a clear breach of the law and it may be taken further.

    Family farm safety: keeping your livestock safe from theft
    Matthew Halpin outlines five tips to keep your livestock secure from thieves, particularly in commonage areas.

    Livestock theft is something that no farmer wants to experience. Of course livestock theft can have a significant financial impact, with the loss of high-value stock, and this is what everyone thinks of first and foremost. However, the theft of livestock can also have prolonged emotional effects, leaving people anxious and possibly feeling unsafe in their own communities. With this in mind, here are five key tips to prevent livestock theft on your farm.

    1 Understand the mindset

    Firstly, you can help to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of livestock theft by understanding the mindset of thieves and how thefts occur. Remember, not every criminal can steal livestock; thieves need a working knowledge of livestock, they need a market and they need to be familiar with the area. Think to yourself, how would I access and steal the cattle if I were a thief? A criminal involved in livestock theft will have visited a farm a number of times before they strike. If you spot an unknown person more than once around your land, or acting suspiciously, then this should ring alarm bells.

    2 Boundaries

    You might ask yourself why would thieves be lurking around an area several times before they strike? Well the answer is thieves will always look for signs of weakness first, such as a broken fence or no lock on a gate. Easy entry and exit from a site is very attractive to thieves.

    To help prevent against this, make sure your boundaries are secure – use fencing and hedging to make any boundary robust; inspect boundaries regularly; and, repair any damage in a timely fashion. Another factor to consider in terms of the infrastructure on the farm is the location of the handling unit. It is critical to examine the location of handling areas because these are more often than not used in livestock thefts. A handling area should only have one-way access to and from it. Furthermore, try to keep this facility away from a roadside also. if you can place a camera in the main area where livestock are handled or accessed it can work very well.

    3 Regular but irregular

    This tip might contradict itself but both regular and irregular refers to the manner in which you keep an eye on livestock. The number one way to keep your livestock safe is to check them on a regular basis. This should be done anyway to monitor the health of your livestock. Regular checking of livestock should involve a headcount of all stock and a check of the enclosure’s boundaries. The reason irregular is mentioned is that while livestock should be checked on a regular basis, the time of day this is done should be irregular, particularly if you live a considerable distance away from the land. If you are known for checking your stock at the same time every day, then it is very easy for thieves to identify times when there will be nobody around. Keep them guessing.

    4 Know where help is

    There are many sources of help available to farmers to keep livestock safe. Firstly, every farmer should have a neighbour, friend or relative that can help them out when they are away. This needs to be someone you can trust and who is familiar with the place. Word gets around fast when people are going on holidays and this can put your farm at great risk of break-ins. Always have someone who can do regular stock checks for you in this case. Another key source of help is An Garda Siochána. Anything out of the ordinary should be investigated and reported to An Garda Siochána immediately. Even any unexplained loss or general suspicious activity should be reported to the gardaí, no matter how inconspicuous you might think a situation seems at first.

    Finally, your community can be a great source of help and it is important to always keep yourself in the link. This is why you should always use your local text alerts or crime prevention initiatives where regular updates and warnings can be received.

    5 Technology

    CCTV fitted at access points or in view of livestock handling areas can be useful. Intruder alarms are also a great way of warning off trespassers.

    Remember to always put up signs around the perimeter of the enclosure when installing this equipment – signs can be a great deterrent in themselves. SelectaDNA’s forensic marking system involves using a liquid solution that contains a unique DNA signature. This signature lasts for five years and can be identified by crime prevention personnel. This technique, which is now being used against sheep theft in the UK, has been successfully used on other items in 37 countries worldwide.