Injuries from agricultural vehicles are the most common cause of serious and fatal injuries in farming today. So ensure you and your employees follow proper safety procedures and make sure everyone is fully trained in how to reduce the risks.
This is the ‘Safe Stop’ process:
Engage handbrake. Controls in neutral. Switch off engine. Remove key.
In the UK over the last decade, almost 40 operators of farm machinery were killed by their own vehicles after leaving the cab without applying a working handbrake. Additionally, around 30 people were killed by becoming entangled in machinery. For this reason, it is vital to follow the ‘Safe Stop’ procedure whenever you leave the driver’s seat (or operating position), when anyone approaches the vehicle or before carrying out maintenance or dealing with a blockage.
It is vital you ensure that all vehicle operators are suitably trained to use their vehicle as intended, are aware of its capabilities and dangers and are able to spot potential hazards. It is also important that they have read and understood the operator’s manual and are familiar with the relevant safety procedures. When switching between types of vehicle, operators must ensure that they are familiar with the layout and function of controls as of course this will vary from vehicle to vehicle.
Safety around the farm
There are a number of simple steps you can take to help keep your farm safe.
i) Always ensure that children are kept away from all areas that may be used by vehicles.
ii) Consider fitting seatbelts to tractors and wearing them when working and driving on the farm and on public roads.
iii) Plan routes around the farm carefully, segregating vehicles from pedestrians where possible.
iv) Discourage reversing by providing turning circles or using one-way systems.
v) If there are blind corners, consider attaching mirrors to the corners of buildings.
It may sound obvious, but it is extremely important to make sure that drivers have good visibility, so make sure all vehicle windows are clean. Some vehicles may have blind spots, in which case, before moving off, walk around it to get a full view, otherwise use your mirrors. Then, sound the horn as an additional precaution.
Loaders and fork-lift trucks may suffer from poor forward visibility when carrying loads so try to position loads in a way that does not obscure visibility. If this compromises stability, it may be safer to travel in reverse gear.
Always try to avoid reversing while towing equipment such as trailers. This is a skill that requires training and practice. If it is unavoidable, take steps to make reversing as safe as possible, such as having someone guide you back.
Keep pedestrians away from reversing vehicles at all times. If it is absolutely necessary to approach a reversing vehicle, you should attract the attention of the driver and get him to stop before continuing.
It goes without saying that you should keep all vehicles properly maintained, following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedules, to ensure proper operation and to minimise the risk of accidents.
Particular attention should be paid to brakes, tyres and steering. Keep mirrors clean and properly aligned, and reversing alarms in good working order. When working on vehicles, ensure that ‘Safe Stop’ has been carried out before removing any guards or starting work. Anyone carrying out maintenance must be properly trained for the job in hand and be equipped with the proper tools, and must follow safe working practices.
Never carry passengers on any farm vehicle unless a passenger seat was fitted by the manufacturer, and never carry children under the age of 13 as passengers. Do not carry anyone if doing so would obstruct your use of the vehicle’s controls or obscure your visibility.
Never allow anyone to ride on drawbars, mudguards, cab steps or linkages. These rules apply at all speeds: deaths can and do occur even at very low speeds.
All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
ATVs have very different handling techniques and characteristics to other types of vehicles, so suitable training in their operation is vital to ensure safety, as is regular maintenance. Major causes of accidents and injury include the follow six risk factors:
i) lack of proper training or inexperience
ii) inadequate protective clothing
iii) excessive speed
iv) carrying passengers
v) unbalanced loads and tipping,
vi) towing excessive loads with un-braked equipment.
Sit-astride ATVs (quad bikes) do not have a cab or roll-over protective structures (ROPS) so the rider’s only protection is his clothing. You should always wear a suitable helmet to protect against head injury, which is the major cause of fatalities among ATV riders. Be aware that the long seat on a quad bike allows the rider to shift his weight forwards or backwards on slopes; it is not designed for carrying passengers.
Should you need to take farm vehicles onto public roads, familiarise yourself fully with the legislation regarding trailer brakes, projections and securing loads. Review all farm and field entrances that are on public roads to ensure that their positioning provides adequate visibility from the road.
Overhead Power Lines
Overhead power lines are another significant danger on the farm.
Electricity can jump gaps of several metres if machinery or equipment is close enough. Be aware of all line heights around your farm. Tipping areas should be kept well away from power lines.
If contact is made with power lines, first lower the raised part of the vehicle, then attempt to drive off the lines. If you cannot do this, stay on the machine until the lines are confirmed as closed down by the electricity company, as automatic switching can occur.
If it is essential to get out of your machine, do not step down. Always jump as far clear as you can, keeping your feet together.