The Health and Safety Authority, HSA, is responsible for the enforcement of health and safety in the workplace. The farming sector is a sector of particular focus of attention by the HSA due to the large number of accidents and fatalities on Irish farms. In order to address this situation the HSA, in addition to traditional inspections, is adopting a parallel approach of targeted engagement and awareness-raising directly with the farming community.
The Agriculture Sector is unique in several respects. It is predominately made up of individual self-employed, self-supervised sole traders whose work is generally intrinsically linked to the family home and family life. Pressures and difficulties in agricultural work are generally exacerbated by seasonality, periods of peak activity, time pressures and the constant influence of various weather conditions. The aim of the HSA is to prevent loss of life, serious injury and ill-health arising out of agricultural work activity to farmers, farm families and all who interact with farmers.
In 2017 the HSA aims to improve health and safety in agriculture by:
- Carrying out 2,000 inspections.
- Continuing the emphasis on engagement with farmers; e.g. through knowledge sharing groups, combined with a series of agriculture inspection campaigns both nationally and regionally.
- Conducting two agriculture inspection campaigns, each of three weeks’ duration. The first began on 1 March and was concerned with livestock safety, and the second commenced on 2 May and focussed on tractors and machinery. The campaigns had both a national and regional focus and were also supported by media campaigns.
- Continuing to deliver coordinated awareness raising/safety promotion/training initiatives with major stake holders (e.g. the National Farm Safety Conference which will take place on 17 November in Ennis).
- Assisting in the implementation of the second year of the Farm Safety Action Plan 2016-2018, developed in conjunction with the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee. This plan lays out a series of specific actions and priorities for tackling the high rates of illness, injury and death on Irish farms including active participation by the HSA in Farm Safety Week which took place in July and the Ploughing Championship in September.
My Department has sanctioned the recruitment of 11 inspector posts for the HSA. On foot of these sanctions the Authority is currently completing its recruitment process for these inspector posts. Of these posts, six relate to inspectors who will have an involvement in future farm inspection programs.
Comments made by the CEO of the HSA in a recent radio interview to the HSA having identified a need for an additional 48 new posts are in reference to a draft two-year Workforce Plan produced by the HSA and submitted very recently to my Department. I have not seen that draft Workforce Plan which is being considered by my officials in conjunction with the HSA. I should point out that the 48 new posts being requested cover a range of sectors and grades including clerical and administrative posts. None of the additional posts referred to in the draft Plan includes dedicated farm inspection resources