From Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Last updated on
From Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Last updated on
Farm safety, health and well-being are vitally important.
Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in Ireland with an average of 20 fatal incidents on farms every year. There was a significant reduction in 2021 where 10 deaths were recorded due to farm related incidents.
Fatalities on farms account for nearly half of all fatal workplace incidents in Ireland. However, farmers only represent 6% of the workforce.
With around 2,800 serious injuries annually on farms, many are life changing and place the farmers’ livelihood and farm at risk.
Livestock, particularly cows after calving, vehicles and machinery, falls from heights, lifting and handling, slurry and hazardous substances all pose risks, but incidents can be avoided if these risks are properly managed.
There is a common perception that farming is a healthy occupation. However, Irish farmers have a higher incidence of heart disease than other workers. Due to their work environment, farmers also have a higher risk of developing certain illnesses such as skin diseases or infections carried by animals.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA ) is responsible for safety and health on farms.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, places a legal duty on employers, including farmers, to prepare and work to a safety statement. However, farmers with three or less employees can fulfil their statutory duty under the 2005 Act by completing a risk assessment document. The HSA has prepared and published a Code of Practice for Preventing Injury and Occupational Ill Health in Agriculture, which guides farmers in completing a risk assessment:
You can download the Code of Practice for Preventing Injury and Occupational Ill Health in Agriculture and risk assessment document here.
This risk assessment identifies the main health and safety risks in farming. It offers advice to help you see what areas on your farm, within buildings, hazardous chemicals, handling livestock, vehicles and machinery pose the greatest risk to health and safety. Once you have identified the potential risks on your farm, you can then take practical steps to avoid any incidents.
For more information, visit the agriculture section of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) website and also the farm health and safety section on the Teagasc website.
Farms are a high-risk environment for children, young persons and other vulnerable persons. Since 2012, 22 children have lost their lives on Irish farms, and around 1 in 10 of all fatalities on Irish farms are children.
We support AgriAware's Farm Safe Schools pilot programme in primary schools that engages and educates children on farm safety. The interactive educational programme is designed to assist teachers in educating pupils about the potential dangers associated with farming and is part of a national strategy aimed at reducing the number of incidents on farms.
The overall responsibility for securing the safety and health of children and young people on farms rests with adults. Young children must have a safe play area which is securely separated from the farmyard.
The main risks to children on farms are:
Farm vehicles and machinery account for the highest proportion of farm deaths and injuries - making up almost half of all fatalities and incidents from 2012 to 2021.
When using tractors/vehicles:
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs)
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or quad bikes are becoming increasingly popular. It is essential that you receive professional training before you use these vehicles. From November 2023, new legislation will place an obligation on the users of work-related all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), including farmers and others on the farm who use ATVs, to undergo mandatory training and to wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The main causes of incidents using ATVs are:
When operating an ATV:
Safety measures when operating machinery:
Around 4 in 10 of all non-fatal farm incidents are livestock related. Bulls, and cows with new-born calves, pose a significant risk. Being crushed or gored by animals that are being herded, moved, separated, released, or loaded onto trailers present the highest risks.
When handling livestock:
When handling bulls:
Falls from a height are a major cause of incidents involving farm buildings. Of particular concern is falling through fragile roofs and from ladders.
Keep your farmyard safe with these safety measures:
Safe use of ladders
Stacks of bales
Drowning is by far the most common cause of death involving slurry. To protect against drowning:
Gases released by the agitation of slurry can cause gas poisoning. The following precautions should be taken when agitating slurry:
One of the most dangerous tasks carried out on the farm is tree felling and using chainsaws. Anyone who uses a chainsaw should be trained by a competent training provider. Alternatively, a competent person can be contracted to carry out the work.
When using chainsaws:
The principle causes of farmers’ ill health is associated with manual handling, lung problems, infections and noise. Half of farmers with occupational ill health suffer from chronic back pain. Irish farmers have a higher incidence of heart disease than other workers, and a higher risk of developing skin diseases because of exposure to damaging ultraviolet sun rays.
To maintain good physical and mental health:
Mind your mental health
Teagasc and Mental Health Ireland have published Coping with the Pressures of Farming , which is a guide for you to map out how your farm business will deal with the pressures. It provides information around wellbeing and useful coping strategies that can work at times of crises.
On Feirm Ground
The Department is co-funding, with the HSE and the Department of Health, a farmers' physical and mental health awareness programme: Engage Unit 8 On Feirm Ground . The programme is for delivery nationally to those employed as farmer advisors and those in regular contact with farmers and agricultural workers. The programme is being delivered to 800 farm advisors to increase understanding of best practice in engaging farmers with health programmes and services. The aim is to extend the delivery the programme to others who work in agriculture.
It was developed against a backdrop of poorer health outcomes and health behaviours among men; men’s underutilisation of certain health programmes and services; challenges from service providers’ perspectives in engaging men; and increasing evidence in support of more gender-sensitive or ‘men-friendly’ approaches.
Samaritans - 116 123 The 24-hour helpline provides emotional support to anyone experiencing distress, despair, or suicidal thoughts.
Aware - 1800 80 48 48 The voluntary group provides support to those suffering with depression and their families.
Your Mental Health - www.yourmentalhealth.ie provides information and advice about your mental health and wellbeing, including mental health issues, coping with difficult situations and helping someone else.
Mental Health Ireland - Information line: 01 284 1166. This promotes positive mental health, supporting people with lived experience of mental health challenges in their recovery and bringing practical expression to national policy objectives.
EmbraceFARM – 085 7709966. The support network helps farm families bereaved by, or who have survived, farm incidents.
Pieta - 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444. A professional one-to-one therapeutic service for people who are in suicidal distress, those who engage in self-harm, and those bereaved by suicide.
Be mindful of the physical capabilities of older farmers and vulnerable adults on the farm. Almost half of all farm fatalities involved victims aged 65 years or older. Older people are particularly vulnerable to fatal injuries involving livestock and involving falls.
The HSA Guide to Safety for Older Farmers and the HSA information for farmers over 65 have advice on how to reduce risks.
This scheme, introduced in 2020, is administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Revenue Commissioners. The Scheme allows for the Accelerated Capital Allowances of 50% per annum over two years on qualifying farm safety and adaptive equipment. It helps those who have suffered life-changing injuries from incidents on farms to invest in adaptive equipment to assist them to continue to farm, for example, modified controls to enable full hand operation of a farm vehicle. Certain safety equipment which are preventative in nature also qualify under the scheme including chemical storage cabinets and anti-backing gates. The list of qualifying equipment eligible for the Accelerated Wear and Tear Allowance is set out in the scheme terms and conditions. For queries on the scheme, please email email@example.com .
Terms and Conditions for Acceleration of Wear and Tear Allowances for Farm Safety Equipment Scheme -
Application Form Acceleration of Wear and Tear Allowances for Farm Safety Equipment Scheme –
Application for Acceleration of Wear and Tear Allowance Certificates for Farm Safety Equipment
The Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Schemes (TAMSII) provide grants to farmers to build and/or improve a specified range of farm buildings and equipment on their holding. There are a wide range of farm safety related investments available which are grant-aided under the suite of seven TAMS measures. These are included under the Animal Welfare, Safety and Nutrient Storage Scheme, Organic Capital Investment Scheme, Tillage Capital Investment Scheme and the Young Farmers Capital Investment Scheme.
As part of all the TAMSII Schemes, it is mandatory to have completed a minimum of a half days farm safety course on completing the Code of Practice within the previous five years. This will also be a requirement in the next CAP Capital Investment Scheme.
Health and Safety guidelines are included in all Building Specifications , drawn up by the Department for the construction of agricultural buildings and structures. All animal housing and slurry storage facilities constructed under TAMS II include a range of health and safety related elements that create a safer working environment on farms.
Farm Safety Training is currently being rolled out to approximately 50,000 farmers as part of the agri-environmental and farm safety training package announced in Budget 2020.
The European Innovation Partnership (EIP) for farm safety funds projects that enable farmers and experts to collaborate on innovative approaches to address the farm health, safety and well-being challenges on Irish farms. The aim is to road-test new ideas and practices which can then be used more widely by farmers and others.
An EIP call for farm safety projects was issued in December 2020. Eight EIPs were approved and are now up and running. The eight projects are:
|Group Name||Project Name||Description|
|Farm Accident and Trauma Response Group||EmbraceFarm Encircle||This project will provide farm families affected by sudden fatalities and traumas on farms with support and guidance in the aftermath of such an event to help the family deal with such challenges.|
|Mid-Leinster Farmer Wellbeing Project||Eco-T (A Collaborative response to Farmer Mental Health and Suicide)||The Eco- T project - a Collaborative Response to Farmer Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and Wellness aim to promote positive mental health in the farming community through a series of facilitated eco therapy, adventure therapy, Peer to Peer Support and Stress Management Programmes.|
|Farm Family CPD Working Group||Farm Family CDP (Online)||The Farm Family Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Online will develop an online Health and Safety training programme to positively change people’s behaviour to mitigate risks which exist on family farms.|
|Forum Connemara CLG||Sláinte agus Beatha Feirmeoirí Conamara (SBFC)||The SBFC project is aimed at promoting and enhancing on-farm health and safety at a local level on farms across the Connemara Region. This will be achieved through a series of tools including risk assessments, training programmes, radio shows and active presence in schools.|
|Keeping Farmers Safe||Safe Farm||The Safe Farm project will develop, deliver, assess and evaluate a bespoke farm safety farmer training programme using a bottom up, participatory approach. Initially a pilot of 200 farmers will take part in the Safe Farm programme, with the aim of establishing an accredited industry standard training programme.|
|Farm Led Interventions for Farm Safety||Farmers4Safety Managing Risk Together||The Farmers Inspiring Farmers to be Safe project will adopt a pilot ‘peer-to-peer’ mentoring and champion approach to engage farmers in an attitudinal and behavioural change towards farm safety by tackling social norms around farm safety by establishing a network of trained farm mentors in counties with significant farm fatality rates i.e. Cork, Tipperary and Wexford.|
|Farmers Health and Wellbeing Alliance||F.A.R.M. Connect||The Fitness, Awareness, Resilience, Meitheal (F.A.R.M) Connect Initiative will work with farmers in Roscommon and Waterford to train the farmers on physical health, mental health and wellbeing.|
|Farm Succession Wellbeing Project||Béal Átha na Muice Project||The Béal Átha na Muice Project will work with farmers in Mayo to explore the mental challenges and strains associated with the process of farm succession and to provide supports to help the farm family to address these challenges.|
Through the Research Stimulus Fund , the Department is funding a farm safety research project called: BESAFE- Behaviours for Safer Farming: The health and safety of farmers is a significant challenge for the social sustainability of Irish agriculture .
The aim of the BeSafe project is to develop and support the adoption of these approaches thereby effecting positive lasting change. The BeSafe project is led by Dr. David Meredith (Teagasc) and involves researchers from Teagasc, NUI Galway, and UCD. The team is complimented by extension specialists from Teagasc, regulatory specialists from the Health and Safety Authority and supported by the Farm Safety Partnership. The work of the team is being overseen by an International Research Advisory Group and a Stakeholder Advisory Group.
A North South Farm Safety Group was formed in 2015 and seeks ways in which the respective authorities can work together to enhance the work currently undertaken in each jurisdiction on farm safety. The group is supporting the sharing of information and looking at the development of joint farm safety initiatives.
The Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee FSPAC is a sub-committee of the Board of the Health and safety Authority . It is made up of the following organisations:
The focus of the FSPAC is to advise the Board on the direction the HSA should take in relation to farm safety. The FSPAC has set up five working groups to advise the FSPAC on specific areas for action, which are:
1. Behaviour, Education and Training
2. Health and Vulnerable Persons
3. Tractor, high risk Machinery
4. Livestock Handling
5. Buildings, Working at Heights (WAH)
A farm safety incident is reportable to the Health and Safety Authority if the injured employee or self-employed person is unable to work for more than three consecutive days excluding the day of the incident. Weekends and other days off are included when calculating days. If an employee is absent because of an incident for more than three days over a period of time, but the days are not consecutive, it is not reportable. Incidents can be reported using the HSA’s online accident and dangerous occurrence reporting system.