Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 4 December 2016

Setting the standard in farm safety

With the silage season approaching, now is the time to take stock of farm safety

Published 13/04/2016 | 02:30

Thomas Moloney pumps a tractor wheel on his yard in Clogheen, Co Tipperary.
Thomas Moloney pumps a tractor wheel on his yard in Clogheen, Co Tipperary.
Tools hang in order on the wall of Thomas Moloney's workshop. Photo: Frank Mc Grath.
Farm contractor Thomas Moloney: A few practical signs really do help. Photo: Frank Mc Grath.

From the moment they walked into the farmyard of Tipperary agri-contractor Thomas Moloney it was evident to the judges of the Zurich Farming Independent Farmer of the Year awards that safety was never far from his mind.

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Teagasc health and safety specialist John McNamara said there are two sides to safety on every farmyard. "One is the machine maintenance and yard layout and the Moloneys are excellent at that as you can see," said Mr McNamara. "The second one is organisation. They train their staff and read HSA and Teagasc materials on safety but most importantly they apply it."

Mr McNamara said both Thomas and his father James, who also keep cattle for finishing, always strive to do the job right and safety is always a top priority. "They think about safety all the time that is what is superb about this farm," he said.

Moloney Agri, based in Clogheen, Co Tipperary, operate 11 New Holland tractors, six hedgecutters, baling, raking, tethering, slurry equipment and also offer specialist tree cutting services.

Mr Moloney said spring and summer months were busy periods for farmers and contractors.

"I find keeping it neat, and tidy and organised is key," said Mr Moloney. "Organisation is king in preventing accidents - planning ahead always helps.

"Maintenance is key - you have to have the machines very well maintained to ensure nothing will go wrong, brakes and things like that. A lot of our operators would undergo a lot of training before they start and are briefed on the safety statement and risk assessments.

"They would have completed courses on hedge cutting, putting out road signs, safe pass and manual handling courses. They would also have occupational first aid." Their work with Irish Rail cutting hedges has also brought an extra safety aspect to his business.

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Mr Moloney said they always try to improve and carry out safety courses and attend open days with both the HSA and Teagasc to see what nuggets of information they can pick up.

"If you see something that might be a potential hazard you try to rectify it or put something in place to reduce the risk," he said, adding he often kept a 'To do' list in his phone.

Machinery and farm vehicles now account for around 50pc of all accidents on farms, followed by livestock at 14pc, drowning or slurry gas deaths at 10pc and falls also at 10pc.

"What seems to be happening on farms is rushing and people knocked down and being crushed," said Mr McNamara, adding machinery size has increased rapidly in small farmyards. "The pattern of accidents on farms has changed from a lot of power shafts to being knocked down or crushed. That will be solved by work organisation and planning."

Eddie Wall, an inspector with the HSA which has begun an intensive two-week farm safety inspection campaign, said machinery use, movement and maintenance was a "huge problem" in terms of injuries and deaths.

SPIC AND SPAN

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"Everything is organised in the workshop - with hooks for hanging all the equipment from spanners to top links. All racks are placed at a height that a person can't walk into.

"All lifting equipment and slings and shackles and fire extinguishers are independently certified every six months and the fire extinguishers are certified every year.

"All of the waste oils and filters are disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. All chemicals are stored in a locked press - with a safety data sheet for all chemical substances. PPE gear is also there for all workers."

CLEAR STATEMENT

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"People can have everything written down in their statement but a few practical signs really do help.

"There are a series of signs around the yard reminding people to carry out tractor safety checks, remove the key and lower any implements before maintenance work. We are also safety conscious around hedge cutting time and have a series of signs that we put out when we are cutting on roadways. Staff have also completed many courses including ones on signing, lighting and guarding at roadworks, hedge cutting, safe pass, manual handling courses and first aid."

Indo Farming