Keep safe during the Christmas break
Francis Bligh Teagasc Health & Safety Specialist, has some important advice for farmers in keeping safe during the Christmas break. Read about farmyard safety, creating a safe place on the farm for children, dealing with the cold weather, frozen pipes, lighting, farm animals, machinery and more here
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. 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.
Create a safe place on the farm for children
Over the Christmas holidays it is important to keep a children away from work areas. A safe play area is important if children are outside. When children are in the farmyard they must be supervised. Easy to read danger signs should be in place and children should be told what they mean. The Teagasc website has a large amount of resources for children that can be downloaded here
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.
Try to prevent water supplies freezing up. Some work insulating pipes now could help reduce the need to move water manually if a cold spell of weather arrives.
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. 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. More information here
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. More information here
Ask for help being mindful of the need to follow HSE guidance on the control of the spread of Covid 19.
Recent cold weather has tested starter motors and batteries on tractors and farm vehicles. If they are performing poorly it is very important to replace or repair them. Roll or pull starting tractors on frosty mornings is a very high risk activity. Beware of handbrakes that are not working properly. Health and Safety Authority data shows 54% of deaths with tractors and farm vehicles have been as a result of a crush injury.
Removing bales from a bale stack or shed
Removing bales from a stack or shed requires great care to avoid injury. Remove the bales from the upper row first. Removing bales from the bottom or middle of the stack can lead to dislodgement and a risk of being injured by a falling bale. More information on handling bales here.
Drivers of agricultural machines should drive with caution and make sure loads are secure. It is important to increase visibility by using lights and beacons, especially during inclement weather or when light is low (early mornings and evenings). Avoid busy roads whenever possible. Try to keep windows washed and clean.