Staying safe on your farm

A surge in farm traffic. Time pressures. Temporary seasonal employees. These risks and other introduced especially around the harvest make health and safety more of an issue than normal.

The HSE warns that agriculture’s fatal accident rate is up to 18 times higher than the UK’s average in other industries1. Farming is already a dangerous profession; make sure you take measures to reduce the risk of injury and illness while working on your farm, (and have appropriate farm insurance in place) whilst still being able to maintain production.

Safety around farm vehicles and machinery

Vehicles and machinery accidents were responsible for over half of all fatal injuries last year2. Have a look at this list to make sure you’re taking all necessary precautions to try to prevent them:

  1. Ensure machinery is checked and is mechanically safe, in particular, check brakes and lights on trailers so others won’t be caught off guard by any maneuvers carried out.
  2. Reduce your speed when entering the yard to avoid accidents.
  3. Monitor and replace dust filters in cabs and wear dust masks to reduce the likelihood of illness and asthma attacks.
  4. Ensure guards are in place on augers and PTO shafts in particular to prevent anything being caught or trapped in them, such as clothing.
  5. Make sure drivers are competent and of the correct age to drive. It’s against the law for children under 13 to use or ride any kind of farm equipment. Failure to observe this law can result in penalties or prosecution3.
  6. Ensure your grain drying system is serviced before its first use to make sure there are no faults that could injure you.
  7. Take care when turning right with machinery – you could be wholly or partly blamed if someone overtaking hits you or equally if you turn left and hit an undertaking cyclist.
  8. Follow the SAFE STOP procedue
    - Handbrake on
    - Controls in neutral
    - Engine off
    - Remove your key

Tips for general farm safety

There were 33 agriculture-related fatalities in 2017/18. Make sure you’re doing all that you can to ensure you and your employees aren’t at risk.

  1. Think about what you’re doing. Do not take short cuts, as they can be disastrous! Fatal or life changing injuries can be caused by simply avoiding quick fixes, such as a farmer getting his arm caught in a stationary harvester because he didn’t take the time to fetch a pitchfork to feed material in.
  2. Some of your employees may be less familiar with harvesting machinery that’s only used several days of the year compared with other tools. Make sure everyone knows how to use equipment, undertake tasks safely and give refresher training where necessary.
  3. Do NOT use any devices that will distract you whilst operating machinery such as mobile phones.
  4. Beware of overhead power cables with tall machinery and bale stacks when maneuvering to and from your farm.
  5. Keep bale stacks away from roadsides and buildings to reduce fire risks.
  6. When you’re securing bales, don’t climb on them directly. Use a ladder and make sure it’s fixed in place before climbing up them.

Make sure you and your team feel energised and alert at harvest

Harvesting is a busy time, make you and your employees look after themselves by:

  1. Staying hydrated, particularly in this current heatwave – make sure you and everyone else in your team has plenty of water in their cabs.
  2. Plan your meals so that you don’t experience ‘sugar lows/highs’ which can reduce concentration and increase the chance of a serious incident.
  3. Harvest time often requires early starts and late finishes. Make sure you get plenty of sleep so you’re refreshed for the next working day.
  4. If you or your employees are going to be in their cabs for the majority of the day, make time for regular stops to exercise and help prevent joint pain.

Safety first

Safety is crucial for everyone working on your farm. Create a culture of safety first and get everyone involved in creating and maintaining a safe working environment on your farm.

1. fwi.co.uk/major-push-farm-safety-harvest-hots
2. hse.gov.uk/agriculture/resources/fatal
3. hse.gov.uk/agriculture/topics/children
4. iosh.co.uk/Safe-Stop-campaign-launched
5. hsa.ie/Young_Elderly_on_Farms/Farmers_over_65_Years
6. Zywave: Agriculture Playing It Safe: Harvesting Safety