Introduction Farming is an occupation that incurs high rates of occupational injuries and illness, including fatalities. Internationally, legislative approaches to improve agricultural occupational safety and health (OSH) practices have been inconsistent in achieving those objectives. Many alternative initiatives to influence agricultural OSH practices have been developed, frequently emphasising information provision. In Ireland, evaluation of information provision approaches, such as classroom-based learning, has found that this is ineffective for improving agricultural OSH practices. However, peer-based learning using communities of practice (COPs), such as Teagasc dairy farmer discussion groups, presents a promising context for agricultural OSH promotion in Ireland.
Research has established the efficacy of farmer discussion groups for promoting adoption of novel technologies and production practices. Little research has been undertaken to assess whether they are effective for promoting agricultural OSH practices. This paper describes the extent to which Teagasc dairy discussion groups engage with agricultural OSH, and identifies the characteristics associated with agricultural OSH engagement. The results are evaluated with respect to the existing literature regarding effective social learning for farming and OSH promotion, to assess the suitability of these COPs for agricultural OSH promotion.
Methods Information about discussion group characteristics and engagement with OSH topics was collected using a survey of Teagasc dairy discussion group members, and a survey of Teagasc dairy discussion group facilitators. The statistical software R was used to assess variation in discussion group engagement with OSH, and the group characteristics statistically associated with that variation.
Result Analysis of the results is ongoing and will be completed in September 2017.
Discussion The findings of this study, including the evaluation framework developed from literature review, can contribute to effective agricultural OSH promotion in Ireland, and internationally. This is especially true for other countries with existing farmer COPs, such as farmer discussion groups in New Zealand and Wales.
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