I thank Deputy Murphy for raising this issue. Just a week ago, I spoke at the national farm safety conference held in Roscommon. I prepared for the conference by looking at the tragic statistics that comprise the story of farm safety last year and this year. Last year 26 people died on farms. This year so far, ten people have died. Only 25 have died in the workplace this year. Therefore, approximately 40% of fatalities in the workplace occur in the farming sector, which makes up only 6% of the working population. This is a tragedy that must not be allowed to continue.
In the fishing sector, five people tragically lost their lives this year. Therefore, of the 25 or 26 people involved in fatal accidents in the workplace this year, 15 were from the farming and fishing sectors, which account for 7.5% of the working population. These are totally unacceptable figures from the perspective of policymakers, who need to make an impact.
There is a series of initiatives to address the problem. These focus on the 2006 Farm Safety Code of Practice and the work of the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee, which involves a series of farming organisations, some of which are State bodies and farmer representative bodies and others of which are private bodies. We are supporting these initiatives.
The Health and Safety Authority, which has legal responsibility for health and safety in the workplace, is to carry out 3,000 farm inspections this year, which is more than twice the number of inspections last year, to ensure the law is being respected. All this work is irrelevant, however, if we cannot change what is inside the heads of farmers and the views of farming families on farm safety.
Farms are not normal workplaces. A farm is a playground, home and workplace and a range of other things. It is a matter of changing the mindset of farmers, in respect of which we all have great responsibility. I will allocate a certain amount of resources to effect this change. This is how we will solve the problem rather than through introducing new legislation.
Additional information given on the floor of the House
The number of farm fatalities in 2010 was 26, the highest number recorded in any year to date. Tragically, already this year ten more people have died on Irish farms. Two of these have been in the last week, both in County Limerick and both involving farm machinery, one a tractor, the other a quad. The statistics consistently indicate that the highest proportion of farm fatalities involve accidents with tractors and other farm machinery.
Just one week ago, I delivered the opening address at the national farm safety conference held in Roscommon. There was a large attendance and there was recognition of the reality that many farm safety tragedies are preventable. There is legislation in place concerning safety in the workplace under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. This Act places the same onus on farmers as on other self-employed people to provide a safe place and a safe system of work for their employees. The Act also requires farmers to complete a risk assessment and safety statement for their farm. In 2006, the Farm Safety Code of Practice was introduced for farms with three or fewer employees and requires the completion of a risk-assessment document only.
The Health and Safety Authority is the national body in Ireland with the responsibility for securing safety and health at work and it intends to carry out 3,000 farm safety inspections in 2011, which is double last year's number. There have been considerable efforts made by the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee and the partnership member organisations on the farm safety issue with the development of the Farm Safety Action Plan 2009-2012. However, while these efforts in the context of the legislation are a necessary part of the farm safety strategy, ultimately farm safety is about self-regulation and about farmers imposing an attitudinal change on themselves. The strategy for improving farm safety has to be, therefore, fundamentally about changing attitudes through raising awareness.
Teagasc has been very active to date in providing farm safety training to farmers nationwide and has also delivered farm safety training to more than 100 agricultural consultants. My Department is very strongly committed to promoting farm safety in tandem with the HSA. Health and safety guidelines are included in all building specifications drawn up by the Department. Farm safety is included in all REPS training courses. There is a farm safety element in the dairy efficiency programme for the period 2010 to 2012. This is especially relevant because the dairy sector consistently has the highest number of farm fatalities out of all the farming enterprises. Farm safety is also given a prominent place on my Department's website, which outlines the requirements on farm safety and provides practical advice on safety on farms.
My Department is represented on the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee and will continue to support and work with the HSA and the other partners in achieving the goals of the farm safety action plan, to reduce fatalities and accidents on Irish farms.