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Think Safety When Transporting and Stacking Bales

08 August 2023
Type Media Article

By Serena Gibbons, Education Officer, Teagasc Galway/Clare

Fatal Accidents involving work with Bales

Farmers and contractors are currently very busy making, transporting and stacking bales of silage, weather and ground conditions are making second cut or those extra bales from paddocks more difficult than usual, however we must never lose sight of safety during these busy periods. Unfortunately data from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) show falling bales account for about 5% of farm workplace deaths. Some of the main dangers are being crushed by falling bales or rolled over by a moving round bale, being crushed or trapped by tractors or farm machinery which is involved in transporting bales. Here are some reminders to ensure the transporting of bales is carried out safely.

Transporting Bales from the Field

When removing bales from the field it is necessary to be careful and have this job done by a skilled driver in order to avoid accidents. The job must be properly planned to ensure machinery is appropriate and safe, drivers are aware of ground conditions including slopes and the presence of overhead power lines. Drivers should travel at an appropriate safe speed and be considerate of other road users.

Bale Handlers

Bale handlers carrying two or more bales help to reduce time, reduce fuel costs and improve efficiency. It is important however to ensure tractors size is appropriate and that indicators and tail lights are visible at all times when carrying bales in the raised transport position. Bale handlers with two bales very often will block the visibility of the indicators, making a turn into the yard extremely dangerous as cars may overtake without a clear instruction that the tractor in front is taking a turn. To avoid this, operators may need to fit plug in magnetic tail lights or permanent lights in a location on the tractor cab where they can be seen by other road users.  It is also important to ensure other road users can easily identify the size of the machine.

Transporting Bales using Trailers

Trailers used to transport bales must not be overloaded. Bales should not hang over the edges of the trailer. Secure the load with suitable straps using double straps at the rear of the load. Avoid high speeds and take account of the effects of the weight of the load on the effectiveness of the brakes, remembering that each bale has an average weight of 600kgs. Always ensure lights and indicators are in working order and visible to road users. Loads must be secured even if the vehicle is only travelling a short distance or at low speeds.

Tractors, Vehicles and Machinery Safety

Overloading or inappropriate loading will increase instability and the risk of an accident. Equipment must be well maintained and drivers must be aware of RSA guidance on vehicle weight, braking, lighting and height limits. When moving bales with a tractor and loader or a tele handler keep the load as low as possible, avoid jerky movements and travel carefully. You may need to use a counterbalance to improve stability.


Drivers must ensure that they have a clear view ahead. Inappropriate use of front loaders can dramatically reduce visibility. It is recommended to have two or more spikes in a bale to prevent rotation or loosening of the bale during transport. When travelling on the road without a bale the bale spikes should be removed, covered or folded back so as not to pose a risk to road users.


If you need to dismount from the tractor or loading shovel to carry out another task (for example, open a gate or fit a strap), ensure the hand brake is applied and is working properly.

Bale Stack

Accidents can occur when bales are inappropriately stacked. The Health & Safety Authority (HSA) state the maximum height of the stack of silage bales should be 3 bales high. Where the bales are not very dense the maximum height of two bales is advised.

Where stacking is necessary:

  • Stack on curved sides.
  • the second row should start approx 2 foot back from edge of bottom row and each bale should sit on the dip where the two bottom bales meet, this ensures increased stability of the second row of bales
  • Bales at the bottom should be prevented from moving using supports.

Stacking of round bales on their ends is not recommended as bales may lean sideways if they settle during storage. Bales can be placed on their ends in a single layer on the ground provided the ground is level.

Child Safety and Bales

Children should never be allowed to play on bales. Remove ladders to prevent children gaining access. Children should not be allowed in the farmyard or fields when bales are being moved, handled or transported.

Correctly stacked bales on curved side

Correctly Stacked Bales on Curved Side