Tax benefits of investing in health and safety
There are a number of ways a farmer can make a farm safer while also benefiting from paying less tax

There are plenty of ways to invest on your farm to try reduce your annual tax bill. But have you ever considered investing in safety measures that also save on your tax bill? We look at just some of the options available to farmers that can reduce the tax bill.

Proactively investing in health and safety can help lower the number of fatalities, injuries, and illnesses on farms. It can boost a farm’s bottom line through savings in the tax bill while also improving productivity and farm safety.

Invest in keeping children safe

Adults have a huge responsibility to make sure that the risks posed to children on a farm are assessed and controls put in place to prevent death and injury.

  • To eliminate the risk of drowning, all open water tanks, wells and slurry tanks should be fenced off. The cost of fencing can be written off against tax.
  • Invest in child passenger seats with safety belts – children between the ages of seven and 16 may ride on a tractor provided the tractor is fitted with a properly designed and fitted passenger seat (with seatbelt) inside a safety cab or frame. The cost of child seats can be written off against tax.
  • Invest in a safe supply of electricity

    Risks from electrocution can be reduced or eliminated by investing. Any investment in infrastructure can be written off against a farm’s tax bill.

  • The fuse board should be regularly inspected by a competent electrician. The cost of service can be expensed.
  • Regularly check for and replace immediately any frayed and damaged cables around the farmyard. Place leads and cables in positions where they will be safe from damage. The cost of maintenance can be written off against tax.
  • Replace any domestic-type sockets, plugs or switches in farm buildings with the correct specification. This cost can be written off against tax.
  • Invest in a generator

    A portable generator is a useful farm investment and its cost can be written off against tax. If investing, it should have industrial-type sockets located on the generator frame for connection.

  • Generators supplying permanent wired installations should have mechanically interlocked switching facilities between ESB and generator supplies. The switch should be clearly marked to show the ESB generator on and off positions.
  • ESB Networks requires notification when a standby generator is to be installed on a farm.
  • Invest in farm fences

    Fences help prevent livestock from entering public places such as roads, which could cause an accident. Any investment in fencing is allowed against farm expenses.

  • Don’t run fences parallel to power lines because dangerous induced voltages might result.
  • Keep fence earth a minimum of 10m from main installation earth.
  • Never electrify barbed wire.
  • Maintain safe clearances from overhead wires.
  • Invest in safe shed doors

    Large doors which open on hinges can be a hazard on farms, especially if there are high winds. Replace hanging doors with roller-type doors. Any cost can be expensed and help reduce a farm’s tax bill.

    Invest in a cattle crush

    A well-built and functional cattle crush can help improve farm safety. The cost of a cattle crush can be written off against a farm’s tax bill.

    Other investments that will help make farmyards safer and can reduce a farm’s tax bill:

  • Avoid slips and trips by keeping the farmyard and farm buildings tidy at all times.
  • Invest in adequate lighting in the farmyard and buildings.
  • Put a vermin control programme in place on your farm.
  • Provide suitable washing and toilet facilities on your farm.
    Environment: slurry agitation safety
    As farmers gear up for slurry spreading, it is important to take all the necessary precautions to avoid accidents

    Over the coming weeks the focus will start turning to slurry spreading. Weather conditions and land trafficability at the moment are ideal and the hope is this trend will continue into the open period. Preparation for slurry spreading can be a dangerous task and farmers need to be fully alert to the dangers.

    In the Machinery section, slurry safety is covered in detail. One of the highest risk periods when working with slurry is agitating. There are a number of toxic gases that can be released during the agitation process such as hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide. We all need to be aware of the dangers and take precautions to avoid encounters with these poisonous gases. Slurry contractors also need to be made aware of the dangers. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has outlined a number of steps that should be taken every time you agitate. The top 10 are:

  • Evacuate and ventilate before you agitate.
  • Never agitate slurry in still air conditions.
  • Move all animals out of the shed before starting.
  • At least two people should be present at all times.
  • Keep children and elderly persons away from the area when agitating.
  • Open all doors and outlets to provide a draught.
  • Never stand over slats or near tank access points when agitation is in progress.
  • Avoid vigorous agitation in confined spaces.
  • Do not allow slurry to rise within 300mm of the slats or tank covers.
  • Keep all people away from the agitation point for 30 minutes after starting agitation.
  • Drowning is another slurry danger. According to the HSA it is the most common cause of death involving slurry. We all need to make sure manholes are covered securely and children are kept away when working with slurry. Scrape holes on outdoor lagoons should be adequately protected. Open slurry tanks should be protected by an unclimbable fence or wall at least 1.8 metres high, with locked gates. Covered or slatted tanks require access manholes that children cannot open easily. Fit a safety grid below the manhole to give secondary protection.

    What can we change in 2019 to make our farm safer?
    Peter Varley talks to senior inspector with the Health and Safety Authority about what every farmer's mindset needs to be to avoid accidents happening.

    Pat Griffin is the senior inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). He has seen it all when it comes to farm-related accidents. Pat shared some very good advice with the Irish Farmers Journal based on his experiences in the HSA.

    Pat believes that with some small changes to the everyday routine, farmers can make a big difference where safety is concerned. “When it comes to farm-related accidents, we always hear about the dreadful fatalities in the press. What we don’t hear about is the 3,000 non-fatal accidents that happen on farms annually,” Pat said. “These accidents are non-fatal but they can be very serious and often life-changing both for the individual and the extended family. Sadly, there are farmers confined to wheelchairs for life or who have suffered loss of limbs, due to these life changing accidents.”

    Pat added that other serious accidents have seen farmers unable to work for up to 100 days and the cost implications are huge. He believes one of the main causes of many of these accidents is simply from rushing around because adequate time is not given to planning out the working day.

    Advice

    Pat says 2019 should be the year that the circumstances which often lead to these serious accidents are changed for good.

    “This is where planning comes in. Consider the coming day’s work, preferably the night before or at least early in the morning. Identify the critical work that must to be done. Don’t put this critical necessary work on the long finger.

    "You don’t want to be in a situation where you are running around at the end of the day trying to complete it,” he said.

    “Also, during this planning you should identify work where you may need an extra pair of hands to help out. It might be a case of asking a neighbour or someone competent to help for the two-person task,” said Pat.

    “If you are struggling long-term to get all the work done in the day maybe it’s time to look at getting more regular labour for the farm, even if it’s on a part-time basis.”

    Pat said another area that is often forgotten but is critically important for a farmer’s well-being is “investing in yourself”.

    He said this is important because you are the most important asset to the farm.

    Many farmers have in recent years invested significantly in the farm whether it’s in tractors, machinery, buildings or livestock, but fail to invest anything in themselves.

    “Too many farmers have threadbare boots and loose, often torn clothing with a general reluctance to buy better gear. Small investment in good clothing is not just for comfort – it could save your life,” Pat said.

    “Every farmer should have boots and wellingtons with good grips and steels toecaps and soles. Loose clothing is not suitable for a farm because you will be far more prone to getting caught in moving machinery,” he said.

    He said next year should be the year farmers look after their general health too.

    “Is there any opportunity to get involved in something outside farming? Could you do a computer course, go swimming, play cards, anything to get away from the farm for a couple of hours,” he said.

    This will help you to recharge and unwind from the stress of the farm for a few hours every week and may give you a different perspective when you return.

    Code of practice

    According to Pat, a review of the code of practice must be done in 2019.

    “Why not review your risk assessment early in 2019 before the farm gets really busy,” he suggested.

    “Maybe if there are young people working on the farm they could be involved in this review.”

    Machinery is one area that needs particular attention when carrying out this review.

    “Tractors are the biggest killer, with 64 people killed as a direct consequence of a tractor or other vehicles such as quads and teleporters in the last 10 years, so these really need your full attention,” said Pat.

    “In a lot of cases the tractor rolls from its parked position and traps the operator or passer-by,” he said.

    The whole mindset around tractors needs to change, according to Pat.

    He believes essential checks need to be carried out daily – fuel level, mirrors, brakes, lights, windows, cab floor, etc.

    By doing these checks before you take off, you can avoid delays further down the road if something goes wrong. By being organised you are less likely to be rushing which has a direct correlation with a possible accident.

    Pat also suggested that farmers should install a hands-free kit in their tractor so they do not have to hold the phone to their ear.

    He said it makes tractor operation much safer. At the end of the working day, the tractor should be reverse-parked into its parking spot, avoiding slopes.

    The idea here is when visibility is poor in the morning you will have a much clearer view driving forward rather than reversing out of the parking position.

    Clearly, if someone follows you out to tell you something it will be far safer if you are not reversing the tractor with half-misted windows.

    He also suggests if the parking break or service break is poor they must be fixed as soon as possible and wheels chocked in the short term until they are fixed properly.

    When it comes to PTOs, Pat threw out an interesting statistic: “Inspections have found that up to 30% of PTOs on farms have defective PTO guarding. With an unguarded or poorly guarded PTO you are running a significant risk of a serious entanglement or loss of life. Where there is a properly fitted complete guard in place the risk is reduced to zer0 – it is one of the only elements in farm safety where our actions can reduce a safety risk to zero,” he pointed out.

    Calving facilities also need to be looked at in January, Pat warned.

    “Every farmer calving cows need good facilities and if you are feeding or tagging a calf there needs to be a physical barrier between you and the cows,” he concluded.

    The latest figures from the National Farm Survey shows a significant jump in non-fatal injuries from dealing with livestock, with being kicked, crushed or butted being the most common source of injury. Farmers should design and lay out their calving and livestock facilities to minimise direct contact with the livestock.

    Christmas Safety Tips – Arthur Byrne, public safety Manager with ESB networks

  • Only use electrical equipment, including Christmas lights that are in good condition.
  • Switch off all electrical appliances, including Christmas lights and phone chargers, last thing at night and when leaving the house.
  • Always unwind extension cords completely to avoid overheating and don’t overload sockets with adaptors or extension blocks.
  • Electricity wires are always live; never approach.
  • If you see fallen wires, keep clear and phone ESB Networks immediately on 1850 372 999/021 238 2410.
    Keeping children safe over Christmas, the new year and all year
    We get advice from the Health and Safety Authority and three families about getting the farm safety message across to children. Mairead Lavery reports.

    The death of a child in a farmyard accident is beyond comprehension. Beyond despair. No matter how the accident occurred, the questions “what if” and “if only” never go away. What if the phone hadn’t rung, distracting me while the toddler headed for the yard? If only I’d taken the time to hang that gate. If only I hadn’t left the ladder against the wall. What if I hadn’t left her alone on the tractor?

    These are the questions that can never be answered. The actions that can never be rewound to give a different outcome.

    Nor can the location of the accident ever be erased.

    It could be visible from a kitchen or bedroom window. It could be the slatted shed or the field behind the house. It will always be there, to be passed multiple times in a working day, re-igniting the loss over and over again.

    So are busy farmyards no-go areas for children under the age of 12?

    This approach has always been resisted by farmers who argue that introducing children to the farmyard at a young age makes them safety aware and instils in them a love of farming.

    The thought of an 11-year-old distracted by scrolling through Instagram while there are cows to be milked or sheep dosed is a non-runner for most farmers.

    Full supervision

    The advice from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is simple and straightforward. “If under the age of 12, children should at all times be fully supervised in the farmyard. However, the farmyard is a no-go area for children under 12 if tractors and other machinery are being operated.”

    And there’s good reason for this approach, says Pat Griffin of the HSA: “Sadly, in the vast majority of accidents where children are involved, tractors and machinery are also involved.”

    Between 2008 and 2017 there were 210 deaths on farms and 23, or 11%, of these were of children under the age of 18.

    Pat says: “A few years ago as many as five to six children were being killed on farms annually but now that figure is back to one or two. So the farm safety message is getting through. However, no child should be killed on a farm. Sadly, it’s often the ‘clued in’ child who is in an accident fatal or otherwise. No matter how clued in they are, children are unable to measure risk properly until they are aged about 10.”

    Children over seven are allowed to be a passenger in a tractor but there needs to be a clear distinction between when the tractor is going for a spin or is at work.

    While children under the age of 12 should be supervised at all times if they are helping to milk cows, they should never be allowed into a pen with livestock. “It’s asking for trouble,” says Pat.

    Going for a spin on the tractor for the over-sevens is another farm practice that families need to have strict rules around. “There needs to be a clear distinction between when the tractor is going for a spin or is at work. A working tractor is no place for children. And children need to know that it’s out of bounds.”

    If you put a young child in the cab of a tractor, they may run to the yard unsupervised at the first sound of a tractor. If carried in the cab they could inadvertently move a lever that could be fatal to them or the operator.

    It must also be remembered that young children’s skulls may not be fully formed and that can lead to injury if they are in the cab of a tractor that’s bouncing around.

    Most fatal accidents to children involve being crushed by vehicles in the yard where the operator’s visibility is poor or falling from tractors, trailers or other machinery.

    Other causes include drowning, falling from a height, falls off ladders and accidents with big bales.

    “Clearly explaining the dangers posed in circumstances such as these and setting basic ground rules works with children – they do listen and take it in,” says Pat.

    Getting the farm safety message across

    Martin and Siobhan Stapleton have three children, two girls and a boy between the ages of nine and 13. Martin is a dairy farmer and is chair of the IFA farm business committee.

    “As the children were growing up we consistently showed them the dangers that existed in the farmyard. It was a matter of telling them again, again and again. They know how important it is to stay away from moving machinery until the operator signals he had seen them.

    “It is the visiting children we worry about. I’ve seen our children explain to their friends why something is dangerous so the message has got through.”

    John and Olivia McNamara are dairy farmers from Limerick. They have four children – Caoimhe, 13; Padraic, 12; Ailbhe, nine; and Conor, who is two and a half. The family were recently named Grassland Farmers of the Year.

    “I grew up on a farm where my parents put a huge emphasis on everything being clean and tidy. I firmly believe this lends itself to farm safety. That stray piece of plastic blowing around, the crack in the concrete that grows wider leading to a fall. They need to be dealt with.

    “We ensure there aren’t lots of places to climb on so we have one stack of bales. Medicines, tools, chemicals, spray and detergents are all locked away. Above all we talk them through the dangers, show them the photographs and videos. Children pick things up fast and getting the safety message instilled in them at a young age is vital. Even so they are always supervised when in the farmyard.”

    Anna Marie McHugh is secretary general of the World Ploughing Association. She and her husband Declan Buttle have one son, Saran, eight, and they farm in Ballylinan, Co Laois, and Blackwater, Co Wexford.

    “We want Saran to have a good grounding in and appreciation of farming. It’s hard to develop that if you don’t go down the yard until you are almost an adult.

    “Saran is never allowed out to the yard on his own. He is either brought out by the person who will be supervising him or he is brought to the person he will be with. I worry more during the winter when it’s dark early and the yard is busy with livestock being fed and big machinery and tractors are on the move. So it’s a matter of being safety conscious all the time.

    “We have two nephews and a niece under 12 and they are regular visitors so they also need a good grounding in the rules. I think it would be no harm if country schools did more about farm safety awareness as well.”