The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has partnered with AXA and Agriland Media Group for an innovative campaign to promote greater awareness of farm safety.

Farm machinery and equipment need to be maintained and serviced regularly, so this month’s instalment looks at the precautions that need to be taken when carrying out these tasks at home in your workshop.

Workshops are essential on most farms but there are a range of hazards associated with them. These hazards need to be managed to prevent injury, or even death.

While some farmers only carry out basic repairs and servicing, others may carry out more challenging tasks, requiring complex tools and equipment.

Before taking on a task, a farmer should always consider having repairs carried out by a competent mechanic – it may be safer, more efficient, and better value in the longer term.

Legal responsibility

All employers, including farmers and agricultural contractors, have a legal responsibility to prepare and implement a safety statement under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

A farmer with three or fewer employees may, instead, follow the Health and Safety Authority’s (HSA’s) Farm Safety Code of Practice to meet the legal requirement of having a safety statement.

Agricultural contractors must also review their risk assessment and safety statement – see the HSA’s tool.

Once the review of the Farm Safety Code of Practice is completed, you then need to put all necessary precautions in place. Remember, that the Code of Practice or Safety Statement must be reviewed regularly and kept up to date, particularly if there are new tools or new types of work undertaken.

Workshop facilities

Maintenance-and-repair work can be challenging and is often carried out under pressure during a busy work period such as silage harvesting.

Key considerations for a safe workshop are:

  • Good electrical installations;
  • Lighting;
  • Air extraction;
  • Ventilation;
  • Fire safety;
  • Non-slip floors.

Always check the lifting equipment before use and don’t exceed the safe working load (SWL) that must be clearly marked on lifting equipment.

Remember, jacks are for raising machinery but not for keeping it elevated.

Axle stands or solid wooden blocks must be used to provide support for any elevated object when working underneath. ‘Hydraulic linkage arms mounted tractor jacking’ systems raise and support tractors and qualify under Accelerated Capital Allowances for Farm Safety Equipment (ACA).

Hazardous substances must be stored and disposed of, in a safe manner.

Tools and equipment

It is essential that precautions are taken to avoid the risk of an incident by being aware of the risks associated with each tool and piece of equipment in the workshop.

Using a tool or equipment for something it was never intended for, is an incident waiting to happen.

Anyone using tools and equipment must be trained and competent to do so, and fully familiar with operator manuals and your workshop procedures.

Always follow the manual instructions for the machine being serviced/repaired. Never use damaged tools or equipment – they must be repaired or replaced.

Personal protective equipment
Always wear suitable overalls and steel toe-capped boots in the workshop. Do not wear loose clothing and always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate to the task such as gloves; masks; visors/goggles; and earmuffs.

Electrical safety

Where possible, use a 110v power supply. If using 240v, ensure that a residual current device (RCD) is fitted to the circuit. It may be worthwhile to get your electrician to check your electrical fittings in your workshop.

Always remember
Repairs and servicing of electrical fixtures must be carried out by a registered electrician.

It is important that RCDs are tested by pressing the ‘test’ button at least every three months to ensure they are operating properly. Always check equipment and tools for damage before using them. Worn cables or damaged plugs need to be replaced before use.


Many tools used in the workshop present a fire risk if flammable materials are present. Flammable materials need to be stored outside the workshop.

All waste needs to be stored, pending disposal, where it does not cause a risk of fire.

It is essential that there is a suitable fire extinguisher in the workshop, and that it is serviced at the required intervals. Using angle grinders and welders can lead to a risk of clothing going on fire.

Make sure that you use suitable clothing and appropriate PPE.

Welding fumes are categorised as carcinogens so there must be good ventilation where welding is taking place. Only weld in a well-ventilated area, wear a suitable mask/visor and apron, and keep fumes to a minimum.

Wheels and tyres

Changing and inflating tyres have resulted in serious and fatal injuries on farms. This is one job that must be done by a competent and skilled person.

Tractors or machinery must be parked on a solid, level surface and adequately supported when raised for removing a wheel.

All nuts must be correctly tightened after a wheel is replaced or refitted.

Consider availing of the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) II grant for a wheel-changing crate that can lift a tractor or other machinery so that a wheel can be removed and replaced safely; and a wheel-pumping crate into which a wheel is placed for inflating.

Wheels must always be stored on the flat or, if upright, should be firmly secured to prevent them falling on a child.

Other risks

  • Vehicles and equipment must always be parked on a level solid floor;
  • Always ensure that hydraulic oil or pressurised air is released before carrying out work.

Be aware

  • If a high-pressure oil leak penetrates the skin, there is a serious risk of gangrene resulting in the loss of a limb;
  • If even a small amount of oil penetrates the skin, contact a doctor at once.