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Taking Care in the Countryside

Taking Care in the Countryside

Irish farmers work very hard each day, managing their animals & crops. This is done while also maintaining habitats, protecting watercourses & supporting their communities. Teagasc Health & Safety Specialists John McNamara & Francis Bligh have advice for farmers on how to keep the countryside safe.

Farmers have the responsibility of managing their crops and animals while not posing a risk to the Health, Safety and welfare of the public.

Here are a number areas where farmers must be very careful to ensure the public is not put at risk. 


Animals by their nature are constantly moving and looking for new fresh grass. This means they will regularly test the most secure fencing and exploit any weak areas. When animals escape they can become very unpredictable, energetic and dangerous. When these animals come in contact with the public they have the potential to run out in front of traffic, damage property or hurt people. It is important to check fencing regular, replace broken or rotting stakes, think about electric fences if there is a power cut, and put additional wire in weak areas of the fence. Gates must be secure. Gates can open on windy days or when animals scratch on them. Make sure hinges are tightly fitted and the latches cannot open. Where the public use the gate fit a sign asking them to close the gate or install a style.

Moving Livestock Between Farms

When moving livestock it is important to have handling facilities available to facilitate safe loading of the animals.

If the animals are walking to their next destination it is important to remember.

  • The route must be assessed.
  • Gates along the route must be closed.
  • Neighbours must be asked to put in their dogs.
  • Walkers must be asked to stand in a safe location (behind a gate in a field with no other animals) until the animals pass. Extra care must be taken if walkers have a dog with them.
  • Adequate help must be present to ensure there is always an individual ahead and behind the animals.
  • People ahead and behind the animals must be visible to motorists.
  • Stand in locations ahead of tight corners or dips in the road to ensure motorists have time to slow sown.
  • Do not assume motorists see you. Cars approaching from behind should be stopped and only allowed to pass when it is safe to do so. Cars approaching from ahead should be asked to park in safely and stop until the animals pass.
  • Try to keep the animals as calm as possible.
  • Motorists must be patient and prioritise safety. The actions of motorists can put lives at risk.

Visitors to the Farm

paddocks strip grazingPeople that visit the farm may or may not be aware of the risks associated with farming. They may visit socially or to do a job (electrical, plumbing) on a day when there is a lot of machinery operating or when slurry is being agitated or when livestock are being moved.

It is important to keep gates to yards closed where possible and have a sign at the entrance to the farm asking all visitors to report to an identified place before proceeding. Hazards on the farm must be marked. When children are visiting take time to ensure they are properly supervised.

Loose Sheeting - Trees

Recent storms have reminded us that once secure tress and buildings can become unsecure. Trees along public roads must be checked regularly to identify tress that pose a risk. There are a number of specialist tree services that will look at a tree to advise on its safety and if safety is an issue the tress or rotten section must be removed.

Farm buildings must be checked regularly to ensure sheeting is secure ant that timbers and fixings are in good condition. Older sheds close to public roads that begin to deteriorate are a very large risk to the public as sheeting can travel long distances at high speed and force when the wind gets under it.

Road Safety

When a farmer is planning to travel on the public road it is very important that the vehicle and implement is road worthy and that the driver has the correct licence, experience and expertise to carry out the task.

Lights indicators and beacon - must be clean and working,
Tyres - must be appropriate thread depth, property inflated and not overloaded.
Hitching – Implement properly attached, links in good order, no excessive wear.
Structure of the vehicle – no visible signs of damage, rust or loosening bolts.
Loads – Properly placed on the implement, secure and strapped down where appropriate.
Dirt on roads – It is a legal requirement to remove clay or other materials that may be deposited on the road during the activity of farming. Clay can be brought on to the road due to poor weather conditions or because water is collecting in low areas at gates. Try to have a stoned area before the exit to the road.
Visibility - Always trim back vegetation at gate entrances on to public roads. If views are very poor ask for help exiting on to the road. Mirrors can be useful but extreme caution must be exercised.

The RSA have produced a series of videos detailing standards of agricultural vehicles. To view these please click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSokQsT_8rU

For further information check out the Farm Safety Week Section on the Teagasc Website.

All this week on Teagasc Daily we will be following the themes of Farm Safety Week on a Daily basis so be sure to check in with Teagasc Daily each day for more