August ranks as a high risk month for accidents, with about 9% of farm deaths occurring during this month. In August, farm work is marked by considerable tractor and vehicle use associated with grass and crop harvesting.  Children are off school and may have access to the farmyard. As the month goes on light levels decline, adding to the hazards. This all adds to the challenge to manage safety on farms in August.

Teagasc health and safety officer John McNamara is urging all farmers to be vigilant about farm safety this month. Here is its advice:

Tractors and Vehicles

  • Being struck or crushed by a tractor accounts for 30% of farm deaths in August. Such accidents occur principally in, or around the farmyard. It’s a matter of being vigilant at all times particularly where there are blind spots, or where a person can get crushed. This is the major cause of deaths on Irish farms.
  • Vehicles should also be secured when stationary by lowering equipment and applying brakes/ handbrakes and applying additional controls if necessary. Vehicles can roll on even the slightest slopes.
  • Make sure that a tractor or vehicle is adequately secured when a wheel has to be removed. Hydraulic jacks on their own are no sufficient to provide support and supplementary support such as use of axle stands is required. Regrettably, collapsing vehicles, or machines are often a cause of farm deaths in August.
  • When accessing public roads make sure that the vehicle and licensing of the driver complies with the requirements of the Road Traffic Acts. In particular ensure that there is adequate visibility at farm and field entrances to view on-coming traffic.

Farm Machinery

One of the most gruesome accidents that can occur on a farm is to get entangled in a power shaft, or other machinery parts as it accounts for about 13% of farm deaths during the month of August.

  • Make sure that all power shafts and revolving machine parts are completely covered. This applies in particular to machinery such as vacuum tankers, agitators, or grain roller augers which are used when the machine is stationary. The operator could be close to the moving parts. This is by far the most dangerous position for power shaft use.
  • Turn off all machine moving parts before ever approaching them for maintenance or adjustment.
  • Never get into a crush zone between a machine and a tractor to make adjustments, as crushing causes instant death. Watch out for heavy weights when folding in, or out machinery as these could crush and kill.


August is a high risk period for injuries caused by animals, with these types of accidents accounting for about 23% of farm deaths.

  • The risk of bull attacks is heightened in August as the breeding season ends. This is the cause of two thirds of cattle related deaths.  Bulls when separated from the herd should not be left on their own in a shed or paddock. They should always be accompanied by companion animals.
  • Farmers should also be vigilant when dealing with suckler cows as getting between a cow and calf can provoke an attack by a cow.  This is a major cause of farm deaths on Irish farms. Always stay close to a fence, or a vehicle to give you a path to escape.
  • When treating animals, make sure that crushes and handling facilities are adequate. In particular never enter a crush with an animal.
  • A high level of skill and competence is required when dealing with horses. In particular tack and equipment needs to be adequately maintained. Wear a skull cap to the correct standard when handling or working with a horse.

Working at Heights

Falling from a height, or a collapsing load, each cause 10% of farm deaths during August.

  • Particular vigilance is required when working at heights. This applies when tying loads of bales.
  • Make sure that loader attachments are properly secured so that they don’t become detached at height and collapse.
  • Make sure that bales of hay or straw are securely stacked so that they cannot    collapse.

Behavioural Approach

Farms are constantly changing workplaces especially during August. Safety is secured by vigilance of farmers for hazardous situations which may arise. Accordingly the farmers approach to safety is the single most important requirement to prevent death and serious injury.

Further information on all aspects of Farm Safety can be obtained here.

Pictured: This farmer was lucky to escape following entanglement in a PTO, image courtesy Teagasc