Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

Tips for avoiding injuries in the cold snap

John McNamara

Dealing with the current cold snap essentially means one thing -- taking practical action to get through without injury. During the last cold snap in January and February hospital emergency units were inundated with people with weather-related injuries, mainly due to slipping and falling, which caused breaks, fractures and head injuries.

  • Slips and falls in farmyards -- The key here is to have clear tracks around the farm to prevent slipping and falling. De-icing salt is available from co-ops for around €400/t or €5 per 25kg bag.

Confining the area of walkways keeps the cost to a minimum.

Frozen ice, particularly under snow, is dangerous and should be avoided. This can arise from leaking taps or gutters so avoid where possible. Hot water melts the ice, but make sure the water is swept away as it causes an 'ice-rink' when it cools down and freezes.

  • Herding stock -- Going out into fields to herd and feed stock is associated with injury risk. It is best to do this work during the early or middle of the day. Make sure that you are wearing adequate clothing for thermal purposes and carry a mobile phone to keep in contact in case help is required.

It is best to stay well away from hazardous areas such as banks of streams, steep inclines and quarries.

Take care when loading cattle in these conditions for the mart or factory and take extra care when transporting stock on the roads.

This should only be done if absolutely necessary.

  • Adequate clothing -- The key here is to wear a number of layers to give warmth and flexibility, and having a waterproof layer is essential.

As considerable heat loss occurs from the head, whole body protection is crucial.

  • Vehicle use -- For transport, four-wheel-drive vehicles provide more grip than two-wheel-drives. Wear seatbelts where provided.

Remember to check anti-freeze to prevent engine-coolant freezing. Never take off the coolant pressure cap of an over-heating engine. The coolant is under a higher pressure than atmospheric pressure and it turns to steam, which could cause burns to the face and upper body.

Also Read

Particular care should be taken when jump starting a weak battery. These can be frozen and can explode when jump started due to the hydrogen gas that is produced when they are charged - especially if the battery is repeatedly charged. If possible, keep vehicles in a warm place but not adjacent to flammable material.

  • Electrical usage -- Additional lamps and extension cables are likely to be used during a cold snap.

Check these for signs of wear and tear and correct the wiring before use.

They should be protected by a 30 milliamp RCD (Residual Current Device) on the switch or fuse board to prevent electric shock.

  • Planning and keeping in contact -- A cold snap is a time for keeping in contact with isolated neighbours, particularly the elderly.

It's great to see the active engagement of farming and rural organisations in this activity.

John McNamara is Teagasc's health and safety officer

Irish Independent