Risk Assessing your Farm
Type Media Article
By Serena Gibbons, Education Officer, Teagasc Galway/Clare
Following a spring of mixed weather, a dry and sunny period of weather has arrived, allowing farmers to get silage season into gear. As with all major work carried out on farms, it is important to be mindful of the risks associated with all work. It’s easy to get totally focused on the end result and it’s not until a farmer encounters a “near miss” or worse, that attention quickly reverts to safety.
The Risk Assessment Document was revised in 2017. Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at work Act, 2005, it is legal requirement for every farm to have an up to date Risk Assessment Document (RAD) completed. The Risk assessment Document is a user friendly document, easy to complete and update. Each safety section is clearly outlined and risk assessment is straight forward, when answering the pre-printed questions, you simply tick Yes, No or N/A.
It is important that you answer the question honestly; eg; if you feel that the handbrake on the tractor is not 100%, then this should be identified as “No” on the tractor page and highlighted on the action list at the back of the Risk Assessment Document. The action list should contain items that you have identified as not meeting the safety standards on your farm. There is little to be gained from ticking yes to all questions while ignoring major safety issues on your farm. Completing the safety assessment properly is another step in ensuring safer working conditions for you, your family and all those who work on your farm.
Unfortunately the number of farm fatalities remains too high, the highest number of accidents and fatalities occur in three main categories – Tractors, Machinery and Livestock.
Tractors are the work horse of the farm and regardless of the scale and enterprise on your farm, the tractor is the one vehicle that cannot be done without. A through risk assessment on your tractor(s) is crucial. Page 9 of the RAD lists a comprehensive checklist and safety practices in relation to tractor safety.
Quads bike and farm vehicles also come under this category and should be risk assessed.
While a lot of farmers employ contractors to carry out the majority of machinery operations, there are still a number of machines on all farms that have the potential to cause injury and fatalities, the checklist for machinery is on Page 11 of the RAD, this includes cattle trailers.
Again, the checklist should be given thought and if there is an item that does not meet the safety standard, this should be noted on Action list.
It is breeding season on most farms, this will mean a stock bull running with the herd or identifying cows for AI, this can bring about an increase in livestock handling, particularly if heifers or cows need to be brought in from grazing ground for AI.
Often heifers and cows in heat are difficult to manage. Ensure you have adequate facilities to funnel the stock in from the fields and that the movement is carried out calmly and without stress to animals. An excited or stressed animal can be dangerous and difficult to control, always ensure you move animals in small groups and not individually.
The Bull should have a ring and chain and should never be trusted even if he has never previously displayed any form of aggression. You should always behave as if he has the potential to attack or charge, herding in your jeep or quad during the breeding season will help reduce this risk.
As with all aspects of farm safety, it is impossible to foresee every potential problem, however giving time to completing an honest risk assessment document for your farm is an excellent start to reducing the risk, the hazards will always be there, it is the agricultural environment but farmers have it in their control to reduce the risks.
The Risk Assessment Document should be an active working document that the whole family are familiar with and should any of you notice an area for improvement, this should be included in the action list and addressed when the time is available.
Attitudes are everything, completing a thorough honest Farm Risk assessment will help you and your family enjoy what you love doing in a safer manner.
The Risk Assessment Document can also be completed online at www.hsa.ie