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Minister Coveney Addresses International Meeting on Agricultural Occupational Health and Safety

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today addressed an International meeting on Agricultural Occupational Health and Safety, hosted by the Health and Safety Authority in conjunction with Teagasc and the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee and held in the Castleknock Hotel and Country Club, Co. Dublin.

Up to now the annual international meeting was hosted by the various Nordic countries in order to share outcomes from research in the area of agricultural occupational health and safety and this is the first year that it has been hosted by Ireland.  Participants at the meeting included speakers from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland as well as from the USA, the UK, Italy and Ireland.  This year's meeting addressed key safety issues related to livestock and dairy farming as well as occupational hygiene studies, the management of health and safety on the farm and the best approaches for transferring new knowledge on farm health and safety.

Having had a disastrous record of 26 agriculture related deaths in 2010, already 16 people have died on Irish farms in 2011, while a further 5 have died in fishing related accidents.  Minister Coveney has repeatedly expressed his personal interest in farm safety and has continued his efforts to raise awareness amongst all farmers on the need to put safety first on the farm.  He said that "by continuously talking about and being aware of farm safety we can together bring about a change of culture and farmer thinking in this area".

Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in Ireland with farm deaths accounting for more than half of all workplace fatalities in 2010.  One key area where attention to farm safety can potentially yield the most benefit relates to the safe operation of tractors and other farm machines.

Accidents with farm machinery account for the highest proportion of fatalities on farms each year.  Other key areas include the proper handling of livestock and preventing falls and drowning accidents.  The dairy sector has consistently seen the highest number of farm fatalities out of all the farming enterprises.

Minister Coveney stated that "people working on farms need to be more conscious of safety requirements, in particular since in many instances they are working on their own.  A significant change in mindset is required if we are to prevent further serious farm accidents".  While the Minister acknowledged the important role of enforcement and the considerable effort made by the farming groups in raising farm safety awareness, the Minister said that “changing farmers' attitudes is ultimately about self regulation”.

Minister Coveney concluded "I look forward to the conclusions from this three day international meeting; to learning from the experiences from other countries; to sharing Irish experiences; and ultimately making a positive impact on farm safety".

Date Released: 23 August 2011