Q&A with Tadhg O’Leary, Safety Advisor

Farmwest, 1 February 2017

About Tadhg O’Leary
Tadhg (pronounced liked Tiger without the “r”) has a strong passion for working within the agricultural community. His safety experience is based on a lifetime of exposure to farming and the associated hazards. Tadhg grew up on, and was actively involved in his family’s dairy farm in Ireland. He graduated as a Veterinary Surgeon from the school of Veterinary Medicine in Dublin Ireland. He worked as a veterinarian for ten years prior to coming to Canada. Tadhg first joined AgSafe in 2013 and is returning after a 1-year leave of absence in Toronto where his wife Kathryn was completing her medical training at The Hospital for Sick Children. Tadhg and Kathryn have two children, a 19-month old son Finbarr and a new born daughter Olivia.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ll be working on, now that you’re back with AgSafe?
A: My experience lies in dairy farming and veterinary. I will continue to assist employers in all safety matters in the dairy, poultry, hog, mink and equine sectors throughout B.C.’s Lower Mainland. I can help in a variety of ways from farm visits and assisting employers with their safety programs, to training workers within areas such as tractor, forklift and skid steer safety. Other training offered by AgSafe that I can facilitate includes livestock handling and supervisor training to name but a few.

Q: You’re known as the “dairy guy” at AgSafe, how did that come about?
A: This came about due to my background in being both a dairy farmer and working with dairy farmers for over 20 years. This experience helps me to relate to dairy employers and their workers needs by understanding the hazards that they are challenged with.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between dairy farming/farmers in Ireland and in B.C.?
A: The main difference that I see would be the seasonal calving pattern. In Ireland, for the most part all cows calve in the spring months during February and March to ensure as much milk as possible can be made from grazed pasture. This can result in a very busy spring period when all the calves need to be reared at once. However dairy farmers have a 6-week break from milking during the “dry off’ period between December and January each year. In B.C., cows are calved throughout the year and milking goes on 365 days a year.

Q: Your work extends across various agricultural commodities in B.C., what’s the one piece of advice that you give everyone you speak to?
A: As most farms in B.C. are family farms, I ask parents to recognize their role as the safety supervisors and to lead their new workers and the next generation of farmers by demonstrating best practice. In my experience parents set the tone of safety tolerance on their family farms and should always lead by example.

Q: In your opinion, what should dairy farmers be focusing on, health and safety wise?
A: I think from a safety perspective dairy farmers can care for new and younger workers on their farms by ensuring they receive the necessary training for their role on the farm. They can also provide a safe workplace by checking for dangerous conditions or work practices.

Q: Are there any exciting projects you’re working on for AgSafe, or in general that you can tell us about?
A: I am excited to be the lead on a manure gas exposure project which is currently underway in collaboration with the B.C. Dairy Association. This project helps dairy farmers to determine their own and their farm worker’s exposure to a toxic gas called Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) when manure is agitated on their farms. Participants in the project, as well as learning what level of H2S is on their farms, will receive a free H2S personal alarm valued at $200 for participating in this project. By participating in this project, farmers will be able to assess the risk to themselves and their workers and help create awareness of the potential unseen dangers on their family farm.

Q: How can B.C. dairy farmers get involved with these projects?
A: Feel free to contact me through the AgSafe office or at the email below.

Q: AgSafe has great resources for all B.C. agricultural employers and workers, including the dairy industry. Are there any resources which dairy farmers are under using that you’d like to bring to their attention?
A: I would like farmers to use AgSafe’s new Dairy Health and Safety Program that was recently published. It is designed to help dairy farmers implement a safety program and will meet their due diligence requirements.

Q: Any final words of wisdom?
A: Take care and be safe on your dairy farms everyone!!

Thanks Tadhg, it was great to catch up and find out a little bit more about how AgSafe can help the dairy industry continue to improve its health and safety. Good luck with all the projects.

Tadhg can be reached by email at tadhg@agsafebc.ca or on 604-996-2774.
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