At this time of the year, safety can often take a back seat within Irish agriculture as many of us strive to cram more into the day than the hours permit.

I have been speaking to two farmer/contractors off and on over the past few days.

They have been flat out working at second-cut silage since the weather picked up.

And no doubt, there’s a whole lot more like them.

Yes, fields have to be cut. Yes, crops have to be ensiled. Yes, bales have to be made.

But does it all have to be done at such a breakneck pace, incurring such long hours that even junior doctors would find the prospect of silage contracting an uphill struggle, given the intensity and the duration of the effort required?

Modern grass-cutting and harvesting machinery are extremely efficient and sophisticated pieces of kit.

However, when put in the wrong hands or used by people who are extremely tired – the result of just too many continuous hours at the coal face – accidents will occur.

All it takes is one unthinking moment for a tragedy to unfold. Nothing can replace the loss of a human life or the devastation caused by a serious accident.

Everything in life is about balance.

So, as another month of grass cutting and harvesting beckons, I would ask all contractors not to overdo it.

Apart from increasing the risk of serious accident, tiredness will also reduce operator efficiency dramatically.

So make sure that you get proper rest – you’re a fool if you don’t.

Children and tractors

The subject of safety within the farming sector also brings to mind the increasing number of vintage tractors that can be seen on our country roads.

Don’t get me wrong. They are all spectacularly striking and the owners have, no doubt, spent many long hours restoring them.

However, since the good weather has come in, I have noticed a number of drivers out for a spin with young children sitting on their laps.

This is sheer madness.

Not one of the tractors had a cab fitted and all it would take is one unguarded moment for the child to slip and fall off.

Children should not be allowed on tractors of this type in this. The risk is just too great.

The statistics confirm that farming is one of the most dangerous professions to be involved in.

Both machinery and livestock constitute a serious health and safety hazard.  So why add to the risk by cutting corners and taking senseless chances?