HSA farm inspection campaign to focus on safe working at height
Over the last 10 years (2011 – 2020) working at height led to 11 fatalities on farms.
11th November 2021
- The HSA agriculture inspection campaign will run from Monday 15th November to Friday 26th November focusing on safety when working at height.
- The two-week campaign will target both small and large farms nationwide. Over the last 10 years (2011 – 2020) working at height led to 11 fatalities on farms.
- In 2020, across all sectors, slipping or falling led to 1,946 work-related incidents, 21% of these were falls from height.
- HSA inspectors, during their farm visits, will be reminding farmers of the serious risks involved in any work at height, even short duration jobs.
- Inspectors will advise 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, 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.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will begin a two-week farm inspection blitz on Monday 15th November with a focus on working at height. Over the last ten years working at height has led to 11 fatalities on farms and HSA inspectors will be paying particular attention during this campaign to how farmers plan and organise their working at height activity.
According to Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority, “a lot of work at height on farms takes place on shed roofs, many of which are either entirely or partially made from fragile materials. Working on these roofs carries significant risk and farmers must carefully plan and organise their work to ensure their safety and health.
“Ideally, farmers should avoid carrying out work at height at all and use a competent contractor who will have the equipment and expertise to do the work safely. But where farmers have no option but to carry out the work themselves, there are basic precautions that must be taken. A fall from a height can lead to a very serious life changing injury or even death, taking shortcuts or carrying out the work without due regard to the risks involved is not an option.”
The main risk when working at height is falls, either from ladders, through fragile roofs or from unprotected edges of roofs or other structures. Simple edge protection can prevent falls, but all too often a lack of planning can lead to very serious consequences.
A roof is considered fragile if it cannot support the weight of a person or where part or all of the roof can easily be broken or shattered. Fragile roofing materials include galvanised sheeting, perspex sheeting, and other materials such as glass and wood wool slabs. Factors to take into account when assessing the risk of roof work include:
- Roof lights which may have been obscured by paint.
- 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.
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. 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. General farm safety information and guidance can be found at www.hsa.ie.
The term “construction work” means the carrying out of any building, civil engineering or engineering construction work, other than drilling and extraction in the extractive industries as defined by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Extractive Industries) Regulations 1997 and is included in the Safety and Health at work Regulations 2013.
Further information on safe working at height and farm safety and health in general can be found at the following links:
Farm Safety Action Plan 2021-24
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
Working at Height in Agriculture – Information Sheet
Build in Safety – Advice for Farmers