THE Health and Safety Authority have embarked on a week-long campaign focusing on farmer health and well-being.
Research consistently finds that farmers in particular and those working on the land suffer greater work related health issues than those working in many other sectors. Musculoskeletal injury, cardiovascular disease, hearing loss, particular skin cancers, workplace stress and anxiety all have a disproportionate effect on farmer’s health.
HSA inspectors will carry out farm inspections to encourage farmers to give more consideration to their long-term health and well-being.
The organisation said that farmers who now rely heavily on machinery do not get enough physical activity, 20% (one in five cases) of heart disease and 10% (one in 10 cases) of stroke are caused by lack of physical activity.
One in two farmers, it says, have suffered from back problems at some time in their life and one poor lift can result in a lifelong injury.
Research also shows that 25% of farmers (one in four) at age 30 and half of farmers at age 50 have hearing loss. In addition, around 70% (seven in 10) teenagers living on farms show early signs of ‘noise-induced’ hearing loss.
Another stark statistic says that farmers and those working on farms have four times the risk of developing skin disease and cancers compared with other occupational groups with deaths from melanoma higher among farmers than ‘indoor’ workers.
Meanwhile, six of every 10 non-smoking Irish farmers report having some lung or breathing issues.
During the inspection campaign, HSA inspectors will encourage farmers to consider their health and well-being and to take proactive steps to protect their physical and mental health Pat Griffin, senior inspector for agriculture at the HSA, said that many farmers do not consider their own health and well-being a priority in their day-to day work on the farm, but that must change. ‘If farmers prioritise their own health and well-being it will have a significant impact on their ability to live a healthy and productive life. In reality, a lot of Irish farmers work in isolation, do not prioritise their health and often do not seek out assistance when they should, especially around mental health and well-being.
‘I would encourage farmers to take one step this month to establish healthy habits in their work on the farm around physical activity, diet and connection with others, and ensure they have a good work/life balance,’ he said. ‘Farmers should consider workload and what they are doing on the farm today, how it can affect them in the long run and what changes would help. Farmers can use the HSA guide on health and wellbeing as a step guide towards a healthier working life.’
Inspectors will be distributing a new farmer health and well-being booklet, of useful tips for farmers to improve both their physical and mental health.
Farmers can also download the health and well-being booklet at has.ie.
Get physically active If you have not been very active, begin with 10 minutes and gradually build this up to 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise.
Protect your back Eliminate and minimise strenuous lifting, pulling and pushing and seek out lifting aids for remaining lifting tasks.
Protect your hearing Stay away from noisy activity. If you find it difficult to hear someone speaking within 2m from you, you should be wearing hearing protection.
Protect your skin Wash and dry your skin to prevent disease and prevent skin cancers by wearing long sleeve shirts and broad brim hats and applying sun protection.
Protect your lungs Wear appropriate masks to protect from spores from mouldy hay and dusts from animal housing.
Mind your mental health Share your concerns with those you trust, reach out if feeling overloaded or low, there is lots of help out there.