Monthly Archives: June 2018

The Health and Safety Authority

Unfortunately, between January and June this year we have already seen twelve farm fatalities. In the last ten years, excluding 2017 incidents, almost 200 families have suffered the loss of a loved one because of an accident on an Irish farm – that’s almost one every three weeks.

Farm Safety is About Real People

These aren’t just statistics – they are real people, real farming families – and the scary thing is that they don’t even account for the 2,500 plus farm families impacted by serious farm accidents each year. The fact that there are very few of us who don’t know of someone impacted by farm accidents shows us the scale of the challenge. It also shows that they occur all over the country, across all sectors, and that neither young nor old are immune to the potential dangers – over 45% of farm fatalities in the last ten years have involved children or older farmers.

“It Won’t Happen to Me”

The blurring of the farm as a giant playground and place of residence, the diverse workload (often completed alone and under time pressure) and the fact that few farmers ever really retire, explain in part why the rate of agricultural-related fatalities is far higher than any other economic sector. But does it really get to the heart of the issue? Does it justify why the level of farm accidents is so reluctant to decline or why similar accidents occur year after year on Irish farms?

The simple answer is no, and to improve requires collective effort and acceptance by us all that a farm accident can happen on any farm. All too often, myself included, we think it won’t happen to us: “I know every inch of the farm, I was born here and have worked here every day since. I know where the dangers are and can avoid them”.

Don’t Take Chances

Chances are often taken as a result. And whether it’s getting into the pen with a freshly calved cow, not turning off the PTO when dealing with a blockage or making sure the handbrake is on and all brakes/lights working, the outcome can be fatal. I’m not in any way trying to paint a picture of negligence on the part of the farmer. Instead, I’m hoping to point out that sometimes familiarity leads to complacency and because we are so familiar with our surroundings, and our activities, we fail to see the wood from the trees.

And it’s not just the obvious things that we need to be conscious of. It’s the smaller or more trivial things where in hindsight we’d say, ‘I should have fixed that weeks ago’ or ‘What was I thinking of going so fast on the quad?’. Speaking to anyone about farm accidents, very often the bull or the uncovered PTO shaft spring to mind. But combined, they account for less than 5% of farm fatalities in the last 10 years. Nearly three times more have died from falls on Irish farms and five times more after being crushed by farm machinery.

Small Changes Make a Huge Difference

Ultimately, managing safety on our farms is our own personal responsibility, and should be a constant in our daily farm plans and activities. Not just for our own safety, but that of our families, employees and visitors to our farm.

The good news is that small changes to farm facilities and practices can make huge differences and there are a range of supports available. For example, The Health and Safety Authority have a range of practical guides and safety tips on their website to help identify and control potential challenges across a range of farm activities.

The different ways of complaining

  • Face to face
  • By phone
  • By email
  • By letter

Let’s first take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each before concluding which is the most effective.

Picture this scenario: you have bought a faulty item from a shop and you take it back to complain. You go directly to the shop assistant and tell them your problem. They say they cannot help you, which makes you angrier, to the point perhaps where you start insulting the poor shop assistant. RESULT: This will do you no favours, like getting any compensation, or even a refund. If you go directly to the first person you see within the organisation you are complaining about, you may be wasting your time as they may be powerless to take any action or provide you with a solution. So the important lesson to be learnt is to make sure firstly that you are speaking to the relevant person, the one who has the authority to make decisions.

Perhaps you don’t have time to actually go and see the relevant authority in person so you decide to make a phone call. The problem with complaining by phone is that you may be passed around from department to department, making you more and more angry until you finally give up. Either that or the phone is hung up on you, which leaves you fuming even more. Furthermore, any contact can be denied.

The same applies to emails too, which can additionally be deleted, or even manipulated.

This leaves us with the traditional letter. When we first make a complaint the usual response is a request to write a letter:  “Can you put that down in writing please?”

The advantages of writing a letter of complaint are that:

  • Written records are still very important, e.g. in legal matters as opposed to a fax or email.
  • You have complete control over what is being said, and you can present evidence.
  • You can be prepared, and plan your letter carefully.
  • You are able to keep copies of anything sent in writing.
  • You have time to reflect and/or consult as opposed to complaining on the spot.

So here are some useful points to consider when writing your letter:

  • State what went wrong exactly. You need to provide concrete evidence, with documentation, for example a receipt, where possible. Make sure you keep copies of all correspondence, including relevant documentation. You also need to state where, when, who was involved, what was said or done. Photographic or video evidence boosts your case.
  • What do you expect from your complaint?  If you are complaining about a situation at work, focus on taking action to improve situations rather than spending your time complaining.
  • State a time limit for when you expect a reply.
  • Be assertive, and stay calm.
  • Make sure you address the complaint to the relevant person.

Are you a blogger too

Only a few years ago, a “web log” was a little-known way of keeping an online diary.  At that time, it seemed like “blogs” (as they quickly became known) were only for serious computer geeks or obsessives.

This didn’t last long, though, and within a very short period of time, blogs exploded – blogs were everywhere, and it seemed that almost everyone read blogs, or was a blogger.

The blogging craze of a couple of years ago (when it was estimated that ten new blogs were started somewhere in the world every minute) now seems to have died down a bit – yet thousands of blogs (probably the better ones) remain.  Blogs are no now longer seen as the exclusive possession of geeks and obsessives, and are now seen as important and influential sources of news and opinion.  So many people read blogs now, that it has even been suggested that some blogs may have been powerful enough to influence the result of the recent US election.

Blogs are very easy to set up – all you need is a computer, an internet connection and the desire to write something.  The difference between a blog and a traditional internet site is that a blog is one page consisting mostly of text (with perhaps a few pictures), and – importantly – space for people to respond to what you write.  The best blogs are similar to online discussions, where people write in responses to what the blogger has written.  Blogs are regularly updated – busy blogs are updated every day, or even every few hours.

Not all blogs are about politics, however.  There are blogs about music, film, sport, books – any subject you can imagine has its enthusiasts typing away and giving their opinions to fellow enthusiasts or anyone else who cares to read their opinions.

So many people read blogs now that the world of blog writers and blog readers has its own name – the “blogosphere”.

But how influential, or important, is this blogosphere really?  One problem with blogs is that many people who read and write them seem only to communicate with each other.  When people talk about the influence of the blogosphere, they do not take into account the millions of people around the world who are not bloggers, never read blogs, and don’t even have access to a computer, let alone a good internet connection.

Sometimes, it seems that the blogosphere exists only to influence itself, or that its influence is limited to what is actually quite a small community.  Blogs seem to promise a virtual democracy – in which anyone can say anything they like, and have their opinions heard – but who is actually listening to these opinions?  There is still little hard evidence that blogs have influenced people in the way that traditional mass media (television and newspapers) have the ability to do.

The Different of Business and ethics

Set up in the 1920s by James Carston, a Manchester tailor, the company has remained in the family and is now run by James’s grandson, Paul Carston.  Employing fewer than 50 people, the company has a reputation for producing high-quality men’s shirts, which it sells by mail order, and has a loyal customer base.  As Paul Carston says, ‘Once someone has tried our shirts, they tend to come back for more.  Our customers appreciate the attention to detail and the high-quality fabric we use.’  And it’s the fabric they now use that makes the company almost unique in the world of men’s shirt manufacturers. When Paul Carston took over running the company in 1999, he inherited a business that prided itself on using local well-paid machinists rather than sweatshop labour, and looked upon its employees as members of an extended family.  Paul, a committed environmentalist, felt that the company fitted in well with his values.  The shirts were made from 100 per cent cotton, and as Paul says, ‘It’s a completely natural fibre, so you would think it was environmentally sound’.  Then Paul read a magazine article about Fair Trade and cotton producers.  He was devastated to read that the cotton industry is a major source of pollution, and that the synthetic fertilisers used to produce cotton are finding their way into the food chain.

Paul takes up the story.  ‘I investigated our suppliers, and sure enough found that they were producing cotton on an industrial scale using massive amounts of chemicals.  Then I looked into organic cotton suppliers, and found an organisation of Indian farmers who worked together to produce organic cotton on a Fair Trade basis.  Organic cotton is considerably more expensive than conventionally produced cotton, so I did the sums. I discovered that if we were prepared to take a cut in profits, we would only need to add a couple of pounds to the price of each shirt to cover the extra costs.  The big risk, of course, was whether our customers would pay extra for organic cotton.’ Paul did some research into the ethical clothing market and discovered that although there were several companies producing casual clothing such as T-shirts in organic cotton, there was a gap in the market for smart men’s shirts.

He decided to take the plunge and switch entirely to organic cotton.  He wrote to all his customers explaining the reasons for the change, and at the same time the company set up a website so they could sell the shirts on the internet.  The response was encouraging.  Although they lost some of their regular customers, they gained a whole customer base looking for formal shirts made from organic cotton, and the company is going from strength to strength.