Wellbeing of Farmers: Physical Wellbeing, Mental Wellbeing, Social Wellbeing
Key Challenges: Lack of basic services, Lack or difficulties in accessing health services, Lack of specialist mental healthcare services, External factors (whether, climate change, etc.), Pressure from society/negative perceptions
Key Target Groups: Young farmers, Female farmers, Older farmers, Farm Workers (laborers)
Farm Size: Small/Family, Medium, Large
The Farmers4Safety Project aims to engage the entire farming community in attitudinal and behavioural change towards farm safety, health and wellbeing.
The Irish agricultural sector consistently has the highest proportion of fatal incidents of any sector, ranging from between 35% and 45% of all workplace fatalities in any given year. This is despite accounting for only 6% of the Irish working population. The Farmers4Safety aims to tackle and improve existing social norms around farm safety, health and wellbeing by utilizing a peer-to-peer ‘Buddy’ mentoring approach in the catchment area of counties Cork, Wexford and Tipperary as these are the counties in Ireland reported by the Health and Safety Authority to have the highest number of fatalities in farming over the last ten years.
The project’s mentor approach provides strong networking benefits for farmers and their families, enabling the creation of a co-learning environment that allows them to share their farm health, safety and wellbeing needs and concerns with their peers, as well as facilitating increased levels of intergenerational knowledge transfer and exchange. Such a peer-to-peer approach also provides farmers with an opportunity to voice their on the ground’ experiences, ultimately building trust in the project as a whole within the farming community.
Furthermore, it helps tackle social isolation within the sector by participating farmers visiting, assisting, and supporting each other.
The Farmers4Safety Project aims to reduce the tragic number of farm related accidents and fatalities reported annually through new and innovative ways of tackling farm safety, health and wellbeing.
These actions will predominantly take the form of a peer-to-peer ‘Buddy’ mentoring approach and a novel Farm Safety Sticker Competition (Stick2Safety) with the younger generation to help instigate a change in the entire farming community’s attitudes and behaviours towards farm safety, health and wellbeing in order to prevent unnecessary injury and loss of life. Lessons learned from the pilot structure of the project will support its transferability potential to other parts of Ireland and the EU.
The Farmers4Safety Project was needed in the catchment area of Co. Cork, Wexford and Tipperary as these are the counties in Ireland reported to have the highest number of fatalities in the country by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). In the last ten years Co. Cork has had 31 fatalities, Tipperary had 13 and Wexford had 12. Moreover, the Irish agricultural sector consistently has the highest proportion of fatal incidents of any sector in Ireland, ranging from between 35% and 45% of all workplace fatalities in any given year. This is despite accounting for only 6% of the Irish working population. The age profile of those killed on farms is of particular serious concern, with victims aged under 18 accounting for 10% of all farm fatalities.
Tragically, a recent report by Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority (HAS) indicates that 21 children died on farms between the years 2011 to 2021. These deaths are as a result of tractor/farm vehicles (76%), falling objects (5%), electrocution (5%), drowning/asphyxiation (5%) and farm machinery (9%). Worryingly, the HSA reports that almost half of all fatalities to children occurred during the school summer holiday months of July and August, perhaps because they are spending more time at home, in proximity to dangerous farm activities.
The Farmers4Safety Project believes that such fatalities are avoidable, but require innovative safety actions and measures to mitigate risk, such as those being implemented by this initiative. Emotional wellbeing is another area that requires attention in the farming community, with poor mental health reported to be a major contributing factor to accidents and fatalities that occur farms.
Such issues can compromise farm safety due to the resultant lack of sleep, concentration, stress and complacency amongst farmers that may occur. Indeed, farmers tend to be more anxious of safety threats to their family members and employees rather than to themselves.
The Farmer4Safety Project is an EIP-AGRI Operational Group made up of Irish Rural Link, in partnership with two other Irish EIP-AGRI Projects (BRIDE Project and the Duncannon Blue Flag Farming and Communities Scheme), New Futures Farming Group and Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority.
The multi-actor makeup of this project, combined with a steering group consisting of external experts involved in this area, is working towards breaking down the silos that often exist between research, industry and government in order attitudinal and behavioural change towards farm safety, health and wellbeing.
Main Outcome of the activity
Extensive surveys carried out by the Farmers4Safey Project to date have brought to light the diverse needs and challenges facing farmers and their families towards farm safety, health and wellbeing, as well as gaps in service provisions within the sector.
The project’s generation and delivery of the creative range of networking strategies to disseminate such findings, as well as to communicate the aims, objectives and activities of the project, have been instrumental in tackling and improving traditional social norms and behaviours around farm safety, health and wellbeing.
The project’s novel ‘Stick2Safety’ Sticker Competition has also been hugely successful in
Main Practical Recommendations
The peer-to-peer mentor approach of the Farmers4Safety project has created increased levels of collaboration between farmers, resulting in them assisting each other with busy working periods to ease each other’s workloads, something that is also transferable to other areas facing similar issues across Europe.
The project also showcases the value of allowing farmers to voice their ‘on the ground’ experiences, whilst simultaneously placing them at the forefront of fostering knowledge and innovation, a key objective of CAP.
Key Stakeholders Involved
- EIP-AGRI Operational Groups
- Farm Health and Safety Advisors
Most Innovative Aspects of the Solution
The Farmers4Safety Project’s innovative peer-to-peer ‘Buddy’ approach has led to effective networking and open lines of communication within the farming community, be it within the farm gate and/or at discussion groups and agricultural shows in the locality. Such an approach also allows for intergenerational knowledge exchange on good practice activities.
The ‘on the ground’ actions by the 6 part-time Farm Mentors have also resulted in increased levels of innovative thinking within the farming community in an effort to help address farm accidents and fatalities. These range from the inclusion of a safe pass in the agricultural sector similar to the construction industry, to the creation of an innovative range of safety, health and wellbeing tools on farms such as bespoke stickers for tractors/ machinery highlighting the dangers and risks of such practices, for young and old.