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.
It’s harvest time and the pressure is on.
This work is demanding of your time and your machinery, and the weather, ultimately, decides what can be done and when.
The weather is outside of your control but planning for this time of the season is not. Being well prepared is crucial to ensuring the harvest is a smooth and safe process for all involved.
Preparing for the harvest
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to get essential harvest preparation done.
This starts with you studying your Farm Safety Code of Practice and reminding yourself of potential harvest-associated risks.
Agricultural contractors, too, must review their risk assessment and safety statement, which is available on the Health and Safety Authority’s (HSA’s) website, BeSmart.ie.
Remember, where there are people, there are always risks to their safety.
After you have reviewed the code of practice, you must put all necessary precautions in place.
While this gives you confidence in your safety measures, it is important not to become complacent. You must always remain vigilant for the unexpected – particularly when it comes to children or vulnerable adults.
Machinery and facilities
When machinery, equipment, and buildings are well maintained, breakdowns and structural issues are less likely to occur.
When time is lost due to unplanned stoppages, it can be tempting to take a shortcut to get you back on track. Don’t do it.
There is always pressure to continue even when you’re tired. But, when tired, you’re more likely to take chances and risk injuring yourself or others. If you need a rest, take a rest.
Taking shortcuts can lead to unsafe practices, which can then lead to incidents that result in injury or death.
All machinery – combines, tractors, trailers, balers, and loaders – must be serviced and kept in good working order prior to harvest commencing.
Particular attention must be paid to servicing equipment that you haven’t used in a while, such as the grain dryer, for example.
Be sure to take the time to review how to use controls with anyone who may be operating equipment.
Before using machinery, you need to check that all power-take-off (PTO) covers are secure and guards are in place to protect people from moving parts.
On public roads
It is common for large loads of grain and straw to be drawn on public roads from most tillage farms, so it is crucial that machinery is roadworthy.
Check that all lights, beacons, brakes, mirrors, and wipers are working on the tractor and combine.
Trailers need to be checked and serviced and must be fitted with break-away systems with lighting and brakes in good working order and illuminated reflector strips.
Remember, bulbs can blow, so check, regularly, that all lights, beacons and indicators are working.
As well as ensuring that all machinery is roadworthy, you should also familiarise yourself with the requirements for bringing wider, self-propelled machines on the road, this is particularly important when bringing combines between different harvest locations.
Requirements relating to agricultural vehicles and machinery while travelling on public roads can be found on the Road Safety Authority (RSA) website.
Always ensure that loads of bales are properly secured and checked during longer journeys.
Farm safety is about protecting people
The Farm Safety Code of Practice features a section on the protection of children, older people, and others on the farm. This section needs to be reviewed and steps put in place to protect everyone on the farm who is at risk during the harvest.
The farmyard is a particularly busy place during the harvest and the best protection is to keep away those who are not directly involved in the work. Even when away from the farm, children must be supervised because if they get the opportunity, they will head towards the busy area with loud machinery.
In the field
Anyone not involved in the harvesting of crops should stay away from the fields.
Prior to the harvest, it is important to check out the fields and travelling routes where machinery will be working for risks such as low electric wires or tree branches.
The ESB should be contacted as soon as possible whenever low or fallen wires are found.
Steep slopes should be avoided when drawing grain or straw and people should never be carried on trailers.
Passengers should only be carried when the vehicle has a passenger seat but children under seven years of age should never be carried as passengers.
And it is good practice to never get them into the habit of travelling in tractors, combines or other agricultural vehicles
Risk of fire
Machinery’s moving parts generate a lot of heat. That is why proper servicing and regular maintenance are essential to ensure that all bearings and other components move smoothly and freely.
Because of the build-up of trash and dust, there is a significant risk of a combine, baler or tractor catching fire, especially during dry weather.
Machinery should be cleaned regularly to remove dust and debris. A fire extinguisher is a must on every tractor and combine, and where fitted, on machinery.
Fire extinguishers must be serviced at the frequency stated on their labels.
Grain bin safety
Most grain is stored in dedicated sheds, but some is stored in bins. It is best to avoid going into bins, but it is sometimes necessary to enter a bin for repairs or cleaning.
Before undertaking any work in grain bins, you should first read the HSA’s Code of Practice for Working in Confined Spaces.
Low oxygen levels represent a significant risk in grain bins as oxygen is replaced by carbon dioxide.
Toxic gases, which can build up, and spores from moulds, are also hazards.
Remember also that dust in a bin is highly combustible.
If using a grain-treatment option instead of drying, it must be used according to the instructions on the label.
The label will also state what personal protective equipment should be used when applying these products – some grain treatment products can be corrosive.