The highest standards of safety

23 Jul , 2019  

The winner of the inaugural Hooper Dolan sponsored Waterford Farm Safety Awards in association with Teagasc was announced back in January and Noel and Sinead Griffin walked away with a Waterford Crystal trophy and €2,000 prize money.

The judging panel for the awards consisted of John McNamara, Teagasc health and safety officer; Sue Phelan, Kildalton College; and Kieran O’Connor, O’Connor Communications; and a WLR FM agricultural correspondent.

The areas which were covered by the awards included – a good risk assessment, machinery, livestock, animal handling facilities, buildings, slurry pits, farm equipment, grain and feed storage, meal bins, farm yard, electrics, farmyard lighting, children’s’ play area and farmer health checks.

The Awards were open to all farms and all enterprises in Co. Waterford and whittled down to five finalists. Dairy farmer Noel ticked all of those boxes. Ably assisted by wife Sinead and children Jack (18), Henry (17), Maeve (15) and Eimear (12), he milks a 185-strong herd at Cappagh, north of Dungarvan. Special mention must also go to Noel’s uncle John Hickey who works on the farm and had done so all his life, and is an invaluable help to Noel and all the family.

The Griffin family were judged to have the highest standards of safety, from their dairy parlour and slurry facilities, to farmyard lighting, machinery and a children’s play area.

Chair of the judging panel John McNamara said: “Farming needs constant health and safety management to prevent accidents due to its hazardous nature, and we found that participants were very motivated to manage farm health and safety on a continuing basis.

“In addition, we observed numerous innovative safety features to solve farm-specific problems, clearly showing that farm safety was in participants’ mind-sets.”

Noel Griffin was pleasantly surprised when his family farm was announced as the winner…

“It was a nice surprise to get and great recognition for how serious we take Health & Safety here on the farm,” he commented when reflecting on his win. “Our yard is a fairly new build. My father (Eamonn) was a guard in Cork city, took early retirement in 1994 and started farming here at my mother Eithne’s home place.

“We have added on to the yard and farm over the years, bought additional quota and expanded. There is plenty of room around the yard for machinery to turn comfortably and it’s always kept tidy and clean. Along with a good layout, that is the most important thing overall.”

As a farmer you are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of yourself, employees and others that may be affected by what you do. Putting in place measures to minimise the risk of injury is very much part of Noel’s approach to his farm. The judging panel was also impressed with an underpass that was constructed back in 2006 for the movement of cattle.

“It was the first private underpass in County Waterford,” Noel revealed. “Another feature that the judges liked was how we controlled the house part of the yard. When the kids were younger we installed an iron railing at the back end of the house that meant when they went outside to play they were safe in a play area and not into the yard.”

Noel implements a spring calving system and his 185 strong herd is a three way cross between Fresian, Norwegian and Jersey. He operates a 20 unit Herringbone parlour and supplies Glanbia who nominated him for the award. In addition, the Griffin family breeds pedigree Norwegian Bulls.

“We do a small bit of beef but I’m thinking of getting out of that and rounding off the cows at 200,” he answered when asked: if there were any plans in the pipline for further expansion of his enterprise.

“Brexit is very much on everybody’s mind at the moment and the main concern is not knowing what it will. Farmers are asking themselves:  ‘do I spend?’, ‘Do I borrow?’. Personally, I wouldn’t like to have too much money borrowed at this point in time.”

Noel subscribes to the theory that a safe environment helps maximise income and ensure a quality of life.

“Life is for living and you have to enjoy life,” he said. “Everything falls into place once you have a nice environment to work in. Some farmers are always rushing and that’s how accidents happen. Farmers have to learn how to slow down.”

Wise words from Waterford’s Farm Safety award winner for 2018.

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 2, April/May 2019