New protocol drawn up for contractors and farmer customers

A new protocol for farms where contractors are working has been drawn up in a collaborative effort by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI).

IFA president Tim Cullinan said it is very important that the strictest adherence to the Health Service Executive (HSE) guidelines on Covid-19 are in place for both farmers and contractors.

“Given the scale of work on farms at the moment, there’s a duty on everybody to co-operate and observe the guidelines,” he said.

The safety and welfare of all persons working on a farm has to be paramount.

Meanwhile, FCI national chairman Richard White said: “Farm and forestry contractors will play their important part in ensuring that crops are planted and fertiliser and slurry is spread in a timely way, as well as crops harvested, during the current Covid-19 outbreak.

“As the health and welfare of our machine operators and our customers is our priority, we are requesting that all work instructions are now given over the phone or by email, using texting and smartphone technology to ensure that field work is carried out efficiently while adhering to the HSE personal safety guidelines,” he added.

We are also urging all livestock and dairy farmer customers to roll their silage ground as soon as conditions allow so that when the silage harvest is in full swing there are less stoppages due to unnecessary machine breakages.

“We are concerned that machine parts availability may be a problem, depending on the length of the Covid-19 outbreak, so we all need to work together to minimise machine risk in these challenging times,” White stressed.

Contractor protocol

In the protocol put forward, the FCI urges its members to give their teams a clear set of instructions and if possible stick an “essential worker” notice in a prominent place in the tractor cab.

Contractors are asked to instruct their teams to adhere to points including:
  • Disinfect the interior tractor cab at the start and at the end of each day with a disinfectant spray;
  • Disinfect the tractor cab door handles at the start and at the end of each day with a disinfectant spray;
  • Adhere to social distancing and do not allow others into the tractor cabin with you;
  • Children are off from school. They will like a diversion from the boredom of being around the house. Do NOT allow them into the tractor cab with you;
  • Bring enough food and drinks with you for a day’s work, and take two food breaks;
  • Provide a box of disposable plastic gloves in each tractor cab for your operators and replace each week;
  • Use disposable plastic gloves to open and close farm gates where possible;
  • Wear overalls and change them for a fresh set each day or use disposable overalls and dispose each day;
  • No hand contact, no shaking hands, it is possible to give the instructions over the phone;
  • Maintain 2m safety distance;
  • Cough into your elbow;
  • If you have symptoms, call HSE Live at: 1850-24-1850.

The FCI protocol advises contractors to follow HSE guidelines at all times during daily activities and concludes by reiterating the need to work together to protect everyone and the agricultural sector in general.