Christmas can be a hectic time of the year on Irish farmyards – particularly with children off from school on their Christmas holidays. As a result, Teagasc has issued some key advice for farmers to make their yards a safer place this year.

Francis Bligh, Teagasc health and safety specialist, outlined some important tips and advice on the topics of child supervision, lighting and farm animals.

Stay tuned for his advice on farm machinery, moving bales and road safety tomorrow.

“With family home for Christmas, many farms become a hive of activity. It is important to continue to keep safety high on the priority list as the farmyard is a hazardous place,” Bligh says.

Teagasc National Farm Survey [NFS] found that in the five-year period 2012-2017 almost two-thirds of farm accidents occurred in the farmyard – 64% – and a further 15% in farm buildings.

Over the Christmas holidays it is important to keep a children away from work areas, the specialist stressed. A safe play area is important if children are outside.

Children safety

When children are in the farmyard they must be supervised, Bligh added. Easy-to-read danger signs should be in place and children should be told what they mean.

“Christmas and early January can bring cold weather. It is important to wear suitable warm clothing and bring a mobile phone. Try to have clear routes around farm buildings, and have a stock of gritting material and salt.

A slip or fall can have devastating consequences. Take action to divert water from routes that are used multiple times a day, which can become slippery.

Something as simple as a channel to divert surface water can make a big difference, he stressed.

On the topic of lighting, the specialist said good lights have a dramatic positive impact on safety on the farm.

“Check that all regular walkways are well-lit and replace any blown bulbs. If there are any electrical repairs needed, make sure they’re done by a professional electrician,” he added.

“Make sure all plugs are correctly wired and your cables are solid. When erecting Christmas lights avoid overhead power lines, overloaded power sockets, damaged cables and creating trip hazards.”

Turning to the dangers of farm animals, Bligh said:

“New births on the farm are not uncommon over Christmas.

It is very important to remember that animals guarding their young can be more aggressive and unpredictable than usual. Take the time to pen cows or heifers properly that are showing signs of calving.

Make sure there is a way to put a physical barrier between you and the animals if she needs assistance during calving or when helping the calf to suckle, the specialist added.