Tips to help avoid an accident on the farm this winter

Anthony O'Connor

Most farm accidents happen during the evening and as the days shorten you should plan your day to avoid working late in the evenings.

Plan your day's work. Aim to finish tasks before late afternoon. Before starting in the morning, have a quick check of your farmyard area to see that all is safe.   

  • Farm Machinery Safety - Machinery will be in use on the majority of farms on most days - bring in fodder, pushing in bales or blocks of silage. All machines used need to be in a tip top state of repair. Check that the 3 point linkage is secure. Ensure PTO guards are in place. Avoid wearing loose clothing or jackets with dangling drawstrings or cords. 
  • The braking system of the tractor, including the handbrake, needs to be in perfect working condition.
  • For a clear view, clean windscreen, mirrors, rear window and side windows on the tractor before starting.
  • Plan to carry out all tasks safely. Avoid rushing any job. Drive machinery slowly in farmyards and over rough ground. Keep back a safe distance from any working machinery.
  • Ensure children are supervised at all times.
  • Elderly farmers need to stay clear of any working machinery.
  • Be Safe, Be Seen - wear a high visibility vest when working near machinery. Keep clear of backing tractors with shear grabs or bale handlers.

Winter Preparation - Plastic covers on fluorescent roof lights should be cleaned where possible and damaged ones replaced. Clean lighting throws out more light. Likewise, check that all floodlights and halogen lamps, both inside and outside, are in full working order. Clean glass and replace bulbs where necessary. 

  • Check feed barriers are secure and all bolts and locks are in working order. Ensure that all doors and gates are hanging safely and can be fastened securely. Old or broken fixtures need to be repaired or replaced. Grease self-locking barriers and sliding doors so that they run smoothly.
  • All slurry agitation points must be securely covered and not easily opened.
  • Look at creep gates to verify they can be opened and closed when needed. Ensure that your calving gate is in good working order and safely secured. 
  • Inspect all electrical fittings and replace any that are broken or damaged if required. Don't risk substandard fittings; they could be lethal to both man and animal.
  • Examine barriers, bars and safety area in bull pens to see that all is in order. Keep stock bull secure at all times.
  • Make a list of repairs needed and get them done. Don't delay. Do it today. Remember - farm maintenance is a driver of farm efficiency, saves time and labour, reduces problems with livestock and machinery, Most importantly, it helps prevent farm accidents.

Feeding Cattle/Calves - Feed beef cattle/calves/weanlings in small groups in open troughs in a concrete or hardcore fenced off area. Turn out stock before feeding and close gates. This will ensure that the person feeding meal is safe and will avoid being crushed when putting out meal for stock.   

Stock Bulls - At all times, a strong chain should be fitted to the nose ring for safety and to keep better control of the bull. This should prevent the bull from running or charging. When herding, use a vehicle as a mobile sanctuary in case of an attack. Never turn your back to a bull at any time. Bring a fully charged mobile phone with you but remember that a phone is the last resort and all other controls need to be implemented.

Treating Animals - When treating any sick or lame calf, ensure animal is safely penned away from their dam.  Use a vehicle as a mobile sanctuary if attacked by cow.

Dosing Stock - When treating stock, organisation is vital.  Work in pairs; know what your work partner is doing/positioned at all times. Wear protective gloves and clothing when using pour-ons or when dipping flock. Any chemical coming in contact with skin should be washed away immediately. With cattle, avoid using dogs; use a stick to guide stock when moving them. Never enter a cattle crush or leave hands on rails when cattle are in it.

Anthony O'Connor is a Teagasc Adviser, Galway/Clare Regional Unit

Get the latest news from the Farming Independent team 3 times a week.

Online Editors

For Stories Like This and More
Download the Free Farming Independent App