Farm SAFE initiatives in Northern Ireland gather pace

The Northern Ireland (NI) IOSH Branch is an active member of the NI Farm Safety Partnership Affiliate Scheme and supports local and cross border events including several very popular Farm and Farmer Safety events (See IOSH Network News, March 2016).

A major joint event taking place in 2017 is the 149th Balmoral Show, running between 10th and 13th May. This is the largest agricultural event held in NI, held at Balmoral Park, Maze Long Kesh, Lisburn, Co. Antrim, BT27 5RE.

Members will be supporting Health & Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) and the Farm Safety Partnership on the Branch stand throughout the Show - so if any IOSH/RIG members are at the event, or in the area, do call in and say 'Hello'. They will be providing a wide range of advice and support for local farmers and their families.

HSENI's stand is focusing on farm safety because there have been more than 100 deaths on NI farms since 2000. There were another 7 deaths last year (6 the previous year) and they are still occurring. Sadly the most recent was a four-year-old boy who died at a farm in County Fermanagh on 6 April. His was the first death of a child on a farm in Northern Ireland for at least two years, so it is a particularly tragic start to the year.

The ongoing "Stop and Think SAFE" campaign reflecting the most common causes of farm fatalities in NI (ie Slurry, Animals, Falls and Equipment) will be highlighted, and the stand will feature safe working at height and practical demonstrations on chainsaw use and maintenance.

They will also be encouraging farmers and their families to work together with the authorities and industry organisations to help them stay safe and healthy. Children and adults will be able to learn first-hand about common hazards on farms, watch DVDs, pick up free literature and merchandise, and enter free competitions.

Child Safety on Farms

Seven of those killed on farms in NI since 2000 were children under the age of 11 and to help raise awareness amongst young people (and their parents) of the dangers to children on farms, a 30 second animated video will be launched at the Show. This will be based on the winning entry of Ulster Bank's Farm Safety Initiative For Schools.

Young people aged 7-16 were invited to submit ideas for a storyboard illustrating the potential dangers on a farm and how to stay safe. This important new resource to promote farm safety in schools has been created through Ulster Bank's initiative, working in partnership with the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU), the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster (YFCU), HSENI and The Farm Safety Partnership.Health matters

Another excellent initiative in NI is the Farm Families Health Checks Programme. Qualified nurses will be on hand at the Show, offering free (15 minute) health checks in their Screening Van adjacent to the stand. These health checks will cover:

  • blood pressure
  • weight and body mass index (BMI)
  • cholesterol
  • mental well-being
  • diabetic risk
  • cardiovascular risk

Further information and a leaflet are available on their website.

Farm Safety Partnership in Northern Ireland

The Farm Safety Partnership in NI was launched in May 2012 by not one, but TWO Ministers: Health and Safety Minister, Arlene Foster and Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill.

The FSPNI website includes information on their wide range of activities and available information, all driven by their Work Plans, and a survey carried out in 2015.

The survey enhanced the statistical evidence base available to the FSP, its constituent members and other stakeholders and involved the collection of farm level data on:

  • the number and nature of non-fatal farm accidents;
  • the prevalence of higher risk behaviours;
  • the identification of farm safety hazards;
  • recent safety enhancements and areas identified for improvement;
  • barriers to safer working.

A particularly interesting development is the FarmSAFENet website. This is an online learning tool designed to raise awareness about Farm Safety and is part of a suite of activities developed by the industry-led FSP. By participating in FarmSafe activities on the FARMSAFENet website farmers can demonstrate their commitment to farm safety.


(by Alan Plom, RIG Vice-Chair & FSP England Board Member)

FSP's in England, Scotland and Wales have much to learn from these excellent initiatives. IOSH/RIG has offered to convene an event/Conference on 'Effective Communications'. Meanwhile RIG Committee members involved in the various national FSP's will be actively encouraging sharing of information and learning from the various methods of education being used in NI (and also research and initiatives in Eire).