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H&H Safety: Farm Machinery & Vehicles

10th February 2020

Farm machinery and vehicles are the most common cause of fatal and serious injuries on farms.  Accidents can involve overturning vehicles and machines, collisions with other machinery, buildings or people.

The majority of tractor and other farm vehicle fatalities are as a result of overturns when working on slopes.  When working on slopes the main risks are:

  • Loss of control
  • Runaways
  • Jack-knifing
  • Overturns

There are some simple steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of an incident:

  1. Plan the job
    Think about where the machinery will be working and any changes in ground conditions or slope, what are the surface conditions, will the current weather conditions effect the work (wet weather may make the ground more slippery), are there obstacles (trees, rocks, etc.) that could make the tractor unstable, are there other machines or people working or likely to be in the area, what is the task that you will be doing (towing large tankers on slopes may change the grip on tractor wheels when turning or on slopes).
  2. Select suitable equipment
    The tractor or vehicle should be fitted with a suitable cab or roll over protections structure (ROPS), which will protect the operator in the event of an overturn. Where the is a risk of overturning the operator should use a seat restraint.

    • Never remove doors or windows from a safety cab
    • If a ROPS is fitted ensure that it is in good condition and not likely to fail in the event of an overturn
    • Fit a lap belt (if one is not already installed)
    • Ensure that the tractor or machine is well maintained especially braking and steering components and that tyres have adequate tread for the work that will be carried out
    • Selecting a suitable machine for the job, for example a tractor with four wheel drive are likely to be much safer on slopes than a similar two wheel drive machine
  3. Work safely
    Always follow a safe system of work, turning uphill when working across slopes and descend straight down the smallest gradients, always select the correct gear and speed for the conditions and operation and consider the change of stability that will occur when using attached or trailed implements and trailers

If an overturn occurs reduce the risk of injury by:

  • Stay in the cab and DO NOT try to jump clear
  • DON’T carry loose items such as drawbar pins, grease guns and tools inside the cab as these can cause injury in the event of an overturn
  • WEAR the lap belt or seat restraint when working on slopes
  • Ensure that operators have ADEQUATE TRAINING for the work and machinery that they will be using


Neil Elsender, Managing Director, IRM Safety
With a background in agricultural and plant engineering, Neil founded IRM Safety in 2006.

He holds a NEBOSH diploma, and is a Graduate Member of IOSH, a Fellow of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM) and is a registered consultant on the Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register (OSHCR). Neil is also a Member of the Institute of Agricultural Engineers.

Neil is one of the key speakers for the H&H Safety Farm Zone event; during his talk entitled “Safe Use of Machinery” Neil will talk about the hazardous areas of agricultural machines, the importance of ‘SAFE STOP’, what to do before using any machine, discuss operator competence (not just a matter of training!) and dealing with problems such as blockages and breakdowns.

For more information or advice on your health & safety queries, please email us