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HSA and HSENI to focus on safe working at height in agriculture

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) will begin a fortnight long intensive farm inspection campaign on Monday 1st October.

Inspectors across the island will be visiting farms and ensuring that farmers are carrying out work at height safely. They will draw attention to information and guidance available from both the HSA and the HSENI.

Farming on both sides of the border continues to be one of the most hazardous sectors to work in. Since the beginning of 2018 there have been 21 people killed due to farm accidents on the island of Ireland (16 in Republic of Ireland and 5 in Northern Ireland). Of these, one fatal fall occurred in each jurisdiction.

Last year (2017) there were 31 farm fatalities (25 in Republic of Ireland, 6 in Northern Ireland) with 4 due to falls, or falling objects, on farms (all in Republic of Ireland).

Serious and fatal falls can occur during the repair of buildings damaged due to storms. Many agriculture buildings use fragile roofing materials that cannot support the weight of a person.

In order to work safely at height the following principals should be followed:

  • Only undertake roof work if competent to do so
  • Risk assess all work at height, paying particular attention to fragile roofing materials
  • Take steps to avoid, prevent or reduce risks
  • Before beginning work, select a suitable system of work and suitable equipment

Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector for Agriculture safety with the HSA says that planning is a key component: “We are asking farmers to plan ahead and make sure that work at height is only carried out using the proper equipment and with protective measures in place. This can be done by carrying out a risk assessment that identifies all of the hazards especially when working to repair fragile roofs. Most falls from height are fatal, it’s not worth taking a risk.”

Malcom Downey, Senior Inspector with HSENI said: “Sadly, falls from height are one of the main causes of tragic deaths on farms and it is essential that anyone working at height plans the work and uses the right equipment - for example using a mobile elevated work platform. MEWPs significantly reduce the chance of a fall and using the right equipment also makes the work easier and much quicker.”

During the campaign Inspectors will also highlight the dangers of falling objects such as round bales and other feed items. These items are sometimes stored at height and it is important that they are properly stacked and handled to avoid them falling and causing crush injuries.

Approximately 6% of the working population are involved in agriculture but the sector frequently accounts for up to 50% of workplace deaths. The HSA will host its National Farm Safety Conference in the Dolmen Hotel, Co. Carlow, on October 26th with the aim of reviewing current approaches to safety, health and welfare in farming and improving health and safety within this important sector in challenging times.

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