Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

Opinion: We need to follow the building sector's example on mandatory safety training

Richard Hackett

As the season winds down, one by one machines are being cleaned down, washed and placed into storage until the next time they are required.

It's an ideal time to go through each machine one by one, list any worn parts that need replacing or fixing and compile a list to be accomplished over the next few quiet weeks.

The income generated from tillage has been poor this year, but it's not the machines' fault there is no money in the game. Well maintained machines are more likely to give longer trouble free service which should reduce costs over the course of a season.

More importantly, a properly maintained machine is less likely to be a safety hazard with guards more likely to be in place, and less likely to be have to be fixed in less than ideal conditions on a dark harvest night.

The big ticket items, the combine and the tractors, are the usual places to start. However, there are many implements on the average farm and when any of them fail at the critical moment, chaos ensues.

When trailers are lining up waiting for a shed to be cleaned out so they can be emptied, a correctly working hydraulic brusher is more useful at that moment than the fanciest of combines. Bear in mind the weak links in the chain when making a list of machines for servicing.

New rules and regulations governing use of trailers on the road came into effect earlier this year, and it was notable how many trailers got a makeover for the season.

Some were even retired off and replaced with shiny new ones.

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Now that theses trailers have undergone a full season's work, the regulations haven't gone away with the initial enthusiasm for improvement. It could even be expected the regulations will be more closely monitored next year, so don't forget the trailers in the list of machines for maintenance and go through again the requisite regulations that must be adhered to.

Lights and brakes in particular are very prone to wear and tear over the harvest.

Another machine that should be top of the maintenance list, but unfortunately is often left out, is the sprayer. Again, regulations are a new driving force here.

From now on, all sprayers over five years old must have passed a pesticide application equipment test before being used.

These tests are carried out by approved inspectors, who issue a label for the sprayer with a number and date of test when it passes. This shouldn't be viewed as an unnecessary inconvenience.

Given the cost of product that passes through a sprayer in a year, you would like to think that the spray is being applied in the right place in the right way to make the best of the expensive inputs.

The same argument goes for fertiliser spreaders. Getting the machine up to scratch now will bear real dividends in getting expensive product in the right place in the right amount, every time over the course of a season.

When examining the machines and the yard in general, the most important aspect to focus on is safety. Take a few hours and go around the yard to look out for any dangers that are present. We all know the high risk areas.

There is no excuse for broken guards, worn hydraulic pipes, broken PTO guards, non-performing handbrakes, bad livestock handling facilities and inadequate boundaries between homestead and farmyard-to protect those dearest to us. There is no reason for spectators, especially the old and the young, to be around a working busy farmyard. Too many accidents are occurring around ladders/ falls from height/ falling through roofs.

The statistics in terms of accidents and fatalities that occur in agriculture are to our shame as an industry, moreso as the numbers are not improving over time.

With everything else on the farm being so highly regulated, it's only a matter of time before the current attitude adopted by the authorities to farm safety changes to a more stringent prosecutorial approach.

This is in keeping with the threat level that exists on a farm. The sooner that we as an industry grasps the nettle that the building industry grasped years ago, in particular enforced training regimes, the better off our industry will be.

Richard Hackett is an Agronomist based in North County Dublin and is a member of the ITCA and ACA

Indo Farming