HSA launch farm inspection campaign focusing on safe work at height

Over past 10 years, (2012-2021) there were 20 fatalities on Irish farms associated with falls. 15 of these fatalities related to falls from height.

26th Sept 2022

The HSA agriculture inspection campaign will run from Monday 26th September to Friday 7th October focusing on safety when working at height. The two-week campaign will target both small and large farms nationwide.

  • Over the last ten years working at height has led to 15 fatalities on Irish farms and the HSA is urging farmers to ensure that all work at heightis planned, supervised, safe and based on written risk assessments.
  • HSA inspectors, during their farm visits, will be reminding farmers of the serious risks involved in any work at height, even short duration jobs.
  • HSA Inspectors will also be advising farmers to use the safest possible means of doing this work. The use of appropriate machinery such as an MEWP (Mobile Elevated Work Platform) or putting in place adequate working platform(s), adequate edge protection and other measures to prevent falls from height.
  • Free online resources provided by the HSA, include www.besmart.ie and www.farmsafely.com, will provide guidance and direction for farmers to ensure this key planning activity is properly undertaken.

Launching the inspection campaign Senior Inspector for Agriculture with the HSA, Pat Griffin said“A fall from a height can lead to a very serious life changing injury or even death, taking shortcuts or carrying out work without due regard to the risks involved is not an option.

Unfortunately in the last ten years we’ve had 15 fatalities on Irish farms relating to work at height and the HSA have received a report of one further fall from height fatality to date in 2022. We know working at height is part of the work activity on a farm, but we are urging farmers to plan and organise their work to ensure their safety and health. For example, if you’re planning on repairing a shed’s roof, or clearing gutters on sheds you need to complete a simple risk assessment and think about the safety measures you can put in place to ensure safety or maybe seek out a competent contractor with the right equipment to carry out the work safely. If you don’t have the right equipment, don’t take the risk, leave it to a competent contractor.“

The main risks when working at height are falls, either from ladders, from unprotected edges of roofs or other structures and falls through fragile roof materials. If working on a roof, farmers need to assess the roof to see if it could potentially be fragile, if it cannot support the weight of a person or where part or all of the roof can easily be broken or shattered.

Factors to take into account when assessing the risk of roof work include:

  • Repairs carried out in the past which may have weakened the roof.
  • Metal roof sheets which may have deteriorated with age.
  • Wood wool slabs which may have been damaged over time by water.
  • Roof lights which may have become brittle or obscured by paint.

Very serious injuries can also be caused from unsecured ladders slipping sideways or kicking out at the base.  Ladders should only be used as a means of access or for work of very short duration, keeping 3 points of contact at all times.  Ideally, where farmers are undertaking the work themselves, they should use a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) or a tower scaffold to undertake the work safely.

In terms of the law, maintenance of a structure is considered ‘construction work’ and the extensive legal requirements for construction work must be complied with. Where farmers are undertaking the work themselves, they must carry out a risk assessment. Free online resources provided by the HSA, such as www.besmart.ie and www.farmsafely.com, will provide guidance and direction for farmers to ensure this key planning activity is properly undertaken. 

Further information on safe working at height and farm safety and health in general can be found at the following links on www.hsa.ie:

Working at Height in Agriculture – Information Sheet

Build in Safety – Advice for Farmers

Code of Practice for Preventing Injury and Occupational Ill Health in Agriculture

Farm Safety Code of Practice – Risk Assessment Document

Code of Practice for Safety in Roofwork