Faults found with over 50% of farms inspected by the HSA in May

Just over half of all inspections carried out by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) during the month of May resulted in some form of enforcement action being taken by inspectors.

The HSA announced at the end of April that it would be launching a ‘month-long, intensive’ farm inspection campaign at the beginning of May; the campaign was set to focus on tractors and farm machinery.

The aim was to carry out 500 inspections over the course of the month, but in reality just under 350 were completed, the HSA confirmed to AgriLand.

In a number of instances, the good weather conditions meant it was difficult for HSA inspectors to catch farmers at home – as they were out working in the field or making silage.

HSA inspectors concentrated on compliance with tractors and farm machinery safety requirements during the month-long campaign.

During the campaign, a total of 19 prohibition notices were served by inspectors. These notices prohibited the use of unguarded PTOs on tractors, where U-Guards were missing and where unguarded drive shafts on farm machinery were found.

Unguarded drive shafts were mostly commonly found on slurry spreaders, fertiliser spreaders and toppers, according to the HSA.

Meanwhile, inspectors also advised farmers that driving a skid-steer loader without a safety helmet was strictly prohibited.

In addition to the prohibition notices, some 25 improvement notices were served by the HSA. A total of 103 reports of inspection were issued for non-compliance with general farm machinery requirements.

Key issues arising:
  • 44% of inspections did not have safe work systems in place for agitating and spreading slurry;
  • 39% of inspections found that handbrakes on tractors were not maintained;
  • 53% of inspections found that PTO guards on machines were either not in place or not well maintained;
  • 23% of farms did not record farm machinery hazards in their Agriculture Code of Practice (CoP);
  • 50% of farms had not adequately assessed these risks in their CoP;
  • 50% of farms had the required safety measures listed in their action plans, of which 60% had the required safety practices in place.

HSA inspectors also spoke to approximately 300 additional farmers at eight Teagasc-organised Knowledge Transfer Group meetings, where they addressed the issue of farm machinery risks on farms.

Fresh appeal to prioritise farm safety

Recently, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, made a renewed appeal to farmers and contractors alike to prioritise farm safety.

He issued the appeal as the current spell of warm weather sees a large amount of farm activity taking place throughout the country.

Farmers and contractors are taking full advantage of the current excellent spell of weather and are literally making hay while the sun shines.

“This of course means longer working days and added pressure to get seasonal harvesting work done.

“This weather also means a lot of children are out and about on farms; it is critical that safety is foremost in everyone’s mind and that we take steps to avoid injuries – or worse, the loss of life.

“I have too many times seen the devastating impact that farm accidents can have on a family,” Minister Creed concluded.