A Study of the Effectiveness of Risk Assessment and Extension Supports for Irish Farmers to Improve Farm Safety and Health Management
AuthorMcNamara, John G.
Farming - support services
Occupational safety and health (OSH)
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CitationMcNamara, John G. A Study of the Effectiveness of Risk Assessment and Extension Supports for Irish Farmers to Improve Farm Safety and Health Management. UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, 2014
AbstractThe agricultural sector workforce in Ireland and Internationally has a poor occupational safety and health (OSH) record. Given this situation, identifying approaches to improve OSH adoption on farms are urgently required, yet limited research has been conducted on this topic. In Ireland, legislation introduced in 2005 permitted the development of a Code of Practice (COP) in association with a Risk Assessment Document (RAD) for specific sectors to assist owners of small-scale enterprises and the self-employed to manage OSH. Two state agencies, the Health and Safety Authority and Teagasc – Agriculture and Food Development Authority, formed an alliance to undertake a Prevention Initiative to develop the COP and RAD for the agriculture sector and to assist farmers to use these documents to manage farm OSH and to assess the utility of the approach adopted. The Prevention Initiative firstly developed the RAD on a pilot basis and assessed its value in assisting farmers with OSH management in association with provision of short halfday training and follow-up extension. This was followed by circulation of COP documents, including the RAD, to farmers nationally and making available half-day training based on the RAD and associated OSH extension. A mixed-method research approach was implemented to assess the RAD utility and effectiveness while triangulation of data from different sources was undertaken to maximise the knowledge gained. Questionnaires were used among farmer participants (n=1,206) and Teagasc staff (n=54), who facilitated the training, to gain opinions of the RAD and of the training provided. RAD’s were assembled (n=475) and assessed for their completion levels and nature of controls specified for action by farmers. Farm audits were undertaken (n=94) to assess implementation of farm OSH controls in association with RAD use. A nationally representative survey of farmers (n=891) was used to establish levels of COP and RAD usage and farm accident levels. Farmers reported having a positive attitude to farm OSH. They rated the RAD developed on a pilot basis as the most helpful to them in assisting with OSH management when compared with other legal documents developed in Ireland for this purpose. Farmers perceptions of the causes of serious accidents were found to be at variance with objective data and it was concluded that use of the RAD was an effective means of accurate communications. The COP and RAD documents were used to a limited extent among the farming population and it was concluded that greater utility of these documents requires further support through training. Participation in training on RAD completion in the project pilot phase was motivated by farmers’ desire to improve farm OSH and to gain assistance in completing the legally required documents. Among training approaches used, participants rated using accident victim testimonials and visual approaches to show OSH controls most useful while the provision of information on farmers’ health and level of discussion during training as least useful. Most participants were willing to engage in further OSH farm-based extension including participation in further training and attending farm demonstrations. Following RAD completion, most farmers (78%) planned to make OSH changes for which farm resources were mainly available, but just over half (55%) implemented the changes they planned and these were identified as having a prior record of OSH adoption. Farmers identified a limited number of controls in the RAD for action and those who attended training specified a higher level , while controls specified were mainly physical in nature such as machinery and farm facilities improvement. RAD facilitators were satisfied with the content and structure of farmer RAD training and the majority (80%) were also satisfied with the training they received to provide RAD farmer training while those dissatisfied mainly felt that the training provided was too short. Advisors who facilitated RAD training when compared to those not allocated this role, subsequently reported providing higher levels of OSH advice. Farmers’ completion of the RAD with or without training (half-day) was not associated with reduced farm accident levels. Farm accident level was associated with farms where the farmer and spouse had off farm work, which were comparatively larger in scale. Being a Teagasc client or having received agricultural education was not associated with reduced farm accident levels. Overall the study indicates that farmers’ knowledge is not the limiting factor to OSH implementation as use of the RAD and training did not lead to OSH change among prior non-adopters. The study recommends further assessment of extension approaches which can motivate OSH adoption such as use of farmer discussion groups which have been shown to improve farm management and technology adoption.
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