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Safety Tips when Handling Fertiliser

Fertiliser spreading season is upon us and so health and safety must always be a priority. Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist, Francis Bligh, looks at the actions that can be taken to prevent injury when handling fertiliser.


Thorough planning when making decisions about the type of fertiliser to use, the application rate and timing of application is very important. Planning how fertiliser will be spread in a safe way must also be a high priority.

Fatal injury

Health and Safety Authority (HSA) data tell us that sadly over the past 10 years accidents related to tractors, vehicles and machinery accounted for 50% of fatalities. Spreading fertiliser is highly mechanised and can be a high risk activity.


Firstly, think about how busy you will be and if a contractor could help spread some or all of the fertiliser for you. It is also important to consider in what form the fertiliser will be delivered. The bulk or big bag option minimises the need for manual lifting if you have appropriate equipment.


If you are carrying out the job yourself it is important to carry out a thorough check of your fertiliser spreader. Follow the operator’s manual and make sure the PTO shaft, PTO cover, safety chains and O guard are in good condition. Check for cracks, rust, loose components and the general structural integrity of the machine. Make sure oils are checked and the machine is fully greased.

Mounting a Fertiliser spreader on the three point linkage

When attaching a fertiliser spreader to a tractor 3 point linkage, it is very important to be aware of the places where a body part could get crushed. H.S.A data shows 54% of the fatal accidents with tractors and farm vehicles were due to crush injuries.  The areas between the fertiliser spreader and the tractor is high risk for crush injuries. It is very important that the fertiliser spreader is positioned on a stable base, quick attach mechanisms are used where present and the tractor handbrake is engaged before leaving the cab. Tractor controls should only be used when people are known to be safely outside crush zones.

Protect eyes and skin

Take steps to avoid direct contact of fertiliser products with skin and eyes. The corrosive nature of fertiliser can irritate skin especially where there are cuts or grazes. Always use protective gloves. It is also good practice to wear a dust mask as the dust from fertilisers can also be a problem.

Spreading on sloping ground

Tractors can overturn when spreading fertiliser on sloping ground.  Driver competence and experience is very important. Drivers should make sure that they are familiar with the slope by walking it before driving it, avoid dangerously steep slopes and make sure that the tractor is in good mechanical condition.

Accelerated capital allowances for farm safety equipment

When purchasing eligible farm safety equipment, farmers can claim an accelerated capital allowances of 50% p.a. over two years. This eligible equipment includes, for example, systems to enable the hitching of implements to an agricultural tractor three-point linkage without having to descend from the agricultural tractor as well as adaptive equipment to assist farmers with disabilities. Lifting systems for bags of fertiliser or seed of 500kg or greater are also included. Contact your agricultural advisor for more information.

For more on Farm Health and Safety visit the Teagasc Farm Health & Safety webpage