Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs what actions his Department is taking to highlight the importance of farm safety.
Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs: Agriculture is our most dangerous industry and has consistently held a poor safety record in relation to deaths and serious injury, of all the industries in Northern Ireland.
Whilst Health and Safety is the remit of the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI), I continue to show my commitment to the safety of our farm families and employees through significant work in a number of different ways.
The Farm Safety Partnership (FSP) was established in 2012 and has representation from my Department, HSENI, the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the National Farmers’ Union Mutual, the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association. As part of the 2020-2023 Farm Safety Action Plan (its fourth Action Plan), the FSP is concentrating on specific ‘Farm Safe Essentials’ aimed at reducing the number of serious and fatal incidents relating to frequently recurring causes.
The ‘Stop and Think SAFE’ farm safety multi media campaign, was developed by the FSP to help tackle the high rates of serious accidents and deaths on Northern Ireland’s farms. It raises the issues of the four main causes of fatalities on our farms – Slurry, Animals, Falls (from height) and Equipment. My Department continues to provide funding for this ongoing high profile and often hard hitting campaign.
FarmSafeNet, developed by the FSP, is an online learning tool designed to raise awareness about farm safety. It provides a range of useful resources along with practical information, all to encourage farmers and those working on farms to think seriously about safety on their farm. In addition, the ‘Making it Safer’ tool, included in FarmSafeNet, allows farmers to carry out a simple risk assessment that can help them manage their farm in such a way that it is safer for themselves, families and employees.
These online farm safety tools are an integral part of the application process for the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme Farm Business Improvement – Capital Scheme. Tier 1 Tranche 3 of this scheme is currently open for applications, however, I strongly recommend that all farmers, farm family members and farm workers access these online tools. They can be found at www.farmsafenet.org
Farm safety is a high priority across all programmes that are delivered through the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and Health and Safety is a key component of these programmes.
All new full-time, Further Education agriculture students participate in the Yellow Wellies Farm Safety initiative which is delivered by the Farm Safety Foundation. This important training initiative was delivered remotely to students at the start of the 2020/21 academic year. Health and safety is also a key feature of all practical activities undertaken by students during their course at CAFRE. In addition, the education and training provision on the safe operation of machinery at CAFRE has been further enhanced through the use of simulated driving technology.
During July and August each year CAFRE provides a tractor driving training course for 13 to 16 year old young people. This course includes Health and Safety, Legal requirements, Safe use of tractors on the farm, and how to safely use trailers and other implements. The restrictions in place due to COVID-19 prevented the delivery of this training over summer 2020. However, subject to restrictions that may be in place, this course will be offered during summer 2021.
CAFRE also delivers the Rural Development Programme Business Development Groups (BDGs) and Farm Family Key Skills (FFKS) Schemes. Almost 3000 farmers participate in the BDGs and to date 2138 have attended Health and Safety training, which is an integral part of the scheme. In addition, all BDGs participants have Health and Safety as a component part of their Farm Business Development Plan which is reviewed annually.
Within the FFKS Scheme, 771 people have undertaken Health & Safety Awareness training which aimed to create more awareness of the risks that exist on farms and encourage activities and work practices that create a safer working environment for all the farm family. Over 2,370 farm family members have also been trained in First Aid Awareness.
To date, 290 farm family members have participated in a ‘Coping with the Pressures of Farming’ course. This is delivered by Rural Support and focuses on farmers’ mental wellbeing. It was developed in response to a growing body of evidence that stress and anxiety impact on farmers’ wellbeing and their ability to do their job and a suggested link between increasing stress levels in farming and increasing risks for farm accidents to occur. The training focuses on helping farm families recognise the signs of stress, the potential causes, the practical steps to address the causes and where to seek help when required.
My Department will continue to ensure health and safety remains embedded within its training provision and will work collaboratively with its partners on the FSP to help drive home the importance of farm safety and develop a safety-first culture on our local farms. It is however, the farmers and those living and working on our farms that must put into practice those actions that are required to minimise or eliminate the risks of serious injury or death on our farms.