Safe Farm EIP Project

Country: Ireland

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, Low farm income (market vulnerability), Lack of attractiveness of certain farming profession, Lack of appreciation/support for female farmers, Lack of generational renewal on farm, External factors (whether, climate change, etc.), Pressure from society/negative perceptions

Key Target Groups: Young farmers, Female farmers, Older farmers

Farm Size: Small/Family, Medium, Large

Find Out More

Key contact: Joseph Kirk

Email: joe@aar.ie

Organization: Acorn Agricultural Research

Relevant Links:

National Rural Network Safe Farm EIP Project Booklet

Summary

The Irish agricultural sector accounts for 42% of all workplace fatalities, despite only representing 6% of the entire workforce. This, alongside an underreporting of near misses which have significant long-term, lifechanging implications on farmers and their families, provides the motive and rationale for developing a dedicated training programme for farm families across Ireland.

The Safe Farm EIP used theatre as a vehicle to help promote cultural change within the farming community.

A live drama performance of how a farm should be safely and sustainably run developed by the project entitled “The Clock is Ticking”, had a profoundly positive impact on the perspectives of participating farmers towards farm safety. However, whilst the impact of the live delivery of this performance was very high, so too was the cost.

This limitation resulted in the development of a Learning Management System (LMS) live on Dairygold’s sustainability platform (Ireland’s largest farmer-owned Co-Operative), enabling all of their 7,000 plus members to have access to it.

The LMS has also been incorporated into University College Dublin’s School of Agriculture and Food Science undergraduate curriculum to expose the next generation to this type of thinking at an early age. This is important, as farms are very dynamic workplaces, often functioning as a place of work and a home alongside the movement of machinery, livestock, people, etc., meaning that safety must be priority on all farm types moving forward.

Objective

The Safe Farm EIP Project aimed to stimulate safer farm practice among farm families and foster cultural and behavioural change towards fam safety at farm level by developing, delivering, assessing and evaluating a bespoke bottom-up, participatory farm safety training programme (informed by a needs analysis) with a long-term objective of promoting sustainable safety standards on farms and the possibility of future acceptance as an industry best practice standard.

Activities 

Activities included:
• Gathering insights on farmer behaviour and attitudes to safety, approaches to reducing risks and ultimately improving safety on farms – saving lives, reducing injuries and trauma;
• Assessing the needs of farmers relating to health and safety training;
• Developing a training programme informed by the learning from other sectors, the needs analysis and insights of farmers;
• Recruiting farmers, delivering and assessing training;
• Revising the training following evaluation and feedback with a view to possible future accreditation and roll-out across the wider farming population; and
• Disseminating the learning to increase awareness of risks and reduce the likelihood of an accident at farm level.

Main Outcome of the activity

In terms of specific outcomes of the project, a programme has been developed based on an extensive needs analysis of Ireland’s largest farmer co-operative, Dairygold. One of the key findings of this was farmers cultural acceptance of poor wellbeing.

A direct result was a professionally managed farmer mental health telephone helpline has been implemented for the circa 7,000 members of the farmers’ cooperative. In a bid to change cultural norms, a farm based drama has also been developed and delivered using three different methods, live in person, via Zoom and on a Learning Management System (LMS).

 

Main Practical Recommendations

A worrying theme to emerge from the project was the culture around farm safety with circa 40% of farmers just accepting that farms are by their very nature, a dangerous workplace.

The data did show a high level or awareness of risks. Farmers know what is dangerous. This would indicate that current campaigns are raising farmers’ awareness of risks, but yet, they still take risks.

So, it is reasonable to argue that a different approach to training could be beneficial. Drama with a facilitator could be a non-judgmental way of getting farmers to review how they are running their farm and also their lifestyle.


Key Stakeholders Involved

Most Innovative Aspects of the Solution

The Safe Farm EIP Project set out three core objectives for the programme:

(i) farmer based

(ii) innovative

(iii) scalable.

The development of a drama script based on the farmer needs analysis fulfilled two of these objectives. In order to make it scalable to the cooperatives consisting of circa 7,000 farmers, the drama was filmed, and a Learning Management System (LMS) was developed. This allows farmers to access the training at a time convenient to them on the cooperatives dedicated training platform.