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Is your Farm Machinery ready for Spring Action?

6th February 2019
If you have livestock (particularly cows) on your farm, then slurry will be a part of your working life. It plays a vital role in the cultivation of your land, but you’ll also know that it can be one of the most dangerous things on your farm if mismanaged.

Farmers are reminded of the importance of good machinery maintenance and safe operation and encouraged to use the winter months to ensure that they are compliant.

Winter is the ideal time of the year for farmers to bring their farm machinery into the sheds for storage and where it can be properly serviced prior to being used for the forthcoming spring cultivations.  It goes without saying that this is common sense to farmers, who understand the importance of good maintenance, efficiency and of course, health and safety.

“However, as a farmer, do you know if your machinery complies with the law and does it comply with the terms of your farm insurance policy?” asks Patrick Quigley, Account Executive for H&H Insurance Brokers Ltd.

“If not looked after properly, machinery on farms can be dangerous to users as well as its surrounding environment.  Agricultural motor vehicles and their trailers are covered by the Health & Safety at Work Act (HASAWA). But just because they are not subject to the usual MOT requirements of other road going vehicles it doesn’t mean that safety is any less regulated. It really is important that vehicles and machinery are checked and maintained, where needed.”

Here Patrick gives some advice designed to ensure that everything has been covered – from the point of view of the law, and the farm insurance policy. “In the event that an incident occurs, or a claim for damage or liability needs to be made, we want to make sure that every eventuality has been considered and covered.”

Regulations state that machinery must be regularly checked and maintained in a good state of repair. They must be efficient and in working order.  This specifically relates to the health and safety parts of all machinery, particularly tractor power take-offs (PTO). (Every year people are killed or seriously injured in accidents involving PTOs and PTO drive shafts on machinery, and their guards, brakes, and hydraulic hoses.)

Patrick adds: “There are a high number of visible risks attached to farm machinery – but there are also many more features that are covered by the rules, so these should be regularly checked and looked after.”

Visibility, and audibility, is of the upmost importance and both should be good for the driver/user and anyone in the immediate area who needs to be aware that machinery is operating. This means that all mirrors, wipers and windscreens must function properly. All vehicle lights, including flashing or warning lights, must be working. If there is a reversing signal, this should sound properly.

When it comes to movement of machinery and vehicles, tyre condition and wheel fixings must meet safety standards, and brakes, and the handbrake, should be effective. Fluid levels affect both operational efficiency and safety, so water, oil and brake fluid checks should be regularly undertaken.

When operating the machinery, all safety guards should be in place and operated correctly, and all implements and attachments must be correctly attached and coupled.

Machinery must be kept clean and free of “clarts” that effect visibility or operational effectiveness. They must also be free from dust build ups, particularly during warm and dry weather conditions.

To safeguard yourself as well as others it really is important to check the following daily:

  • Flashing and warning lights
  • Mirrors
  • Wipers and windscreen visibility
  • Tyre condition and wheel fixings
  • Effectiveness of brakes and handbrake
  • Fluid levels – water/oil/brake fluid
  • Correct operation of safety guards
  • All vehicle lights
  • Correct attachment/coupling of implements/accessories

Finally, Patrick reminds that when it comes to safety, everything needs to be recorded as is legally required. He adds “Maintenance logs must be kept up to date and regular services as required by the manufacturer must be carried out and documented.”

“It is also always important to check the terms of your farm insurance to make sure that the risks of operating your machinery are covered, and that you are aware of what is expected of you in return. By avoiding risks staying safe, and you will minimise your chances of breaking the law or needing the services of your Insurance Agent.”