A new educational programme that raises awareness of farming risks among children at primary schools in the Republic of Ireland has been launched by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.
The AgriAware Farm Safe Schools Programme for 2022, which runs from February to May, is designed to ‘create a safety-first mindset in children’, which its founders argue will help reduce the country’s rate of fatal and serious injuries.
The idea is that by instilling safety knowledge in school children, they can help improve the culture of safety on Irish farms through encouraging their parents and extended family to adopt safe work practices. The programme launch follows a successful pilot run in 2021.
Launching the educational initiative on 6 January, Martin Heydon TD, Minister of State with responsibility for farming, said that 21 children had died over the past ten years due to farming incidents in the Irish Republic.
Although annual statistics from the Health and Safety Authority published on 31 December reported a 50% decline on the 2020 level of fatalities in the sector, with nine fatalities recorded in 2021 compared to 20 in 2020, Mark Cullen, chief inspector at the Irish safety regulator, said that ‘farming continues to be one of the most dangerous sectors in which to work’.
Speaking at the launch last week (this will be posted by 14 January), the Irish Minister of State said that although there were many risks on farms, they did not have to be dangerous places to live or work.
‘It is through knowing the risks and then putting in place actions to manage these risks, that the rate of serious and fatal injuries on farms will be reduced,’ he said.
‘I believe that children have an important role to play in encouraging their parents and grandparents to put in place measures to manage the risks on their farms.’
‘The Farm Safe Schools [programme] plays a crucial role in getting the message of farm safety to those on the ground'
A charitable trust, AgriAware was founded in 1996 by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), the Irish Farmers’ Journal, FBD Trust, Bord Bia and Ornua (the former Irish dairy board). The partnership body produces a number of educational and public awareness initiatives and projects for students and the general public.
The AgriAware Farm Safe Schools programme is run in association with the IFA, Agrikids, a farm safety education platform, and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.
Last year, a pilot programme was run in over 500 schools and reached more than 21,000 primary pupils.
The educational programme, which links in with the Irish primary school curriculum, provides teachers with interactive resources and webinars so they can educate young people about the potential dangers associated with farming and agriculture.
The programme has three modules: farmer and field safety, animal safety and machinery safety and aims to empower children to become farm safety ambassadors.
Schools can register to join the programme for free. To become accredited Farm Safe Schools, teachers are required to cover three topics in each of the three modules, although younger classes only need to cover two topics. Teachers must also provide evidence that pupils have learnt the important safety messages from each module.
Alan Jagoe, chairman of AgriAware, said: ‘[The] Farm Safe Schools [programme] plays a crucial role in getting the message of farm safety to those on the ground, with children carrying the messages to their parents and grandparents.
‘We hope this programme can make our farms safer by promoting better practices and reducing accidents on farms.’
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has been proactive in promoting OSH principles in education for many years.
In 2013, the agency published its Occupational safety and health and education: a whole school approach report, which called for the integration of risk education and school safety and health management through school activities.
The thinking is that if children start to learn about safety and health and can identify risks at a young age, the process becomes part of how they work, play and live.
Last year, Sarah Copsey at EU-OSHA told IOSH magazine: ‘It’s about getting the children to inspect and look for hazards and then talk about what the problems are and what rules there should be. If they are involved in these decisions, they have more ownership.’
International interest in educating young children about safety risks continues to grow. In October last year, delegates at the virtual XXII World Congress heard how arming children and teenagers with safety knowledge would enable them to enter the workplace as adults better equipped to make safety decisions and help reduce avoidable accidents.
Ugochi Obidiegwu, managing partner at The Safety Chic in Nigeria, which provides a wide range of interactive safety education products, including free videos, online games and apps and child safety storybooks, said that targeting young children upwards through the education system was integral to developing a culture of prevention.