There is not a single farm in the South West that does not use machinery.
Agricultural machinery represents a significant health & safety risk. Many serious injuries and fatalities on farms are caused by machinery, so do follow these guidelines to help you stay safe on your farm.
Most accidents are caused by using machinery that is poorly-maintained, unsuitable for the job, or by not following instructions properly. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) places a duty on you to ensure that equipment is suitable for its intended use and is installed correctly, maintained regularly, and that those who use it are properly trained and provided with appropriate PPE. Some machinery on farms may be subject to additional regulations, for example, lifting equipment and pressure equipment.
Be cautious when you buy new machinery and consider everything you need to know to ensure that it is safe and suitable for its intended use. Firstly, find out about any health and safety risks and what safeguards the manufacturer has implemented to reduce them. New machinery should conform to EU requirements, have instructions in English, a CE mark, and a Declaration of Conformity. Operating instructions should explain how to install and operate the equipment as well as provide warnings of potential hazards and information on maintenance. Lastly, before purchase, think about where and how you will use the machine, who will use it, what training will be needed, and any risks operating the equipment may pose.
Once machinery has been purchased, you should test it really thoroughly before using it on the farm. Ask your workforce for their opinions. Consider if: any parts look potentially dangerous, guards fit securely, controls are easily understood, it emits dust or fumes, it is excessively noisy, electrical parts are exposed, and if it is easy to maintain.
If you are in any doubt about the safety of the equipment, do not use it. Ask the manufacturer for advice.
Safe use of machinery
Most farm machines, such as balers, harvesters and tractors, have moving parts which can be hazardous. Before working with a machine, read the instruction manual and the risk assessment for the task, then follow the advice given. Carry out any pre-use checks specified in the operator’s manual, ascertain that emergency stopping devices, safety devices and guards are working correctly. Ensure the machine is suitable for the job, and that you have received the appropriate training to operate it safely. If towing, check the machine has been correctly attached to the towing vehicle. If working in a team, agree each person’s role and a system of communication before starting work.
Employees should be trained to use all the machinery they need to operate, whether they are full-time, casual or seasonal staff. Ensure that staff have appropriate PPE for operating machinery, such as safety boots, face and ear protection. Loose fitting clothing or jewellery should not be worn.
Never leave machinery running unsupervised. Follow the Safe Stop guidelines whenever you leave machinery, if anyone approaches your machine or before carrying out maintenance, making adjustments or clearing a blockage. Safe Stop requires you to engage the handbrake, put controls in neutral, switch off the engine or power, and remove the key or lock-off the power supply to your equipment.
If a problem arises while using machinery, follow Safe Stop, resolve the problem and check that people are clear of the machinery before starting up again. When dealing with blockages, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, keeping in mind that machine components may suddenly move when the blockage is released.
Particular care is required when using power take-offs (PTO) on tractors and on machine drive-shafts, as they can be dangerous if they are not properly used. Never operate PTOs with faulty or ill-fitting guards or without guards, as they can kill in seconds. PTO guards should be checked on a daily basis for wear, damage and to ensure they are secure. Guards need to cover the top and both sides of the PTO so that people are fully protected, they should be the correct size for the shaft when closed or extended, and should enclose the full length of the drive shaft from the tractor to the first bearing of the machine, taking into account the shaft’s vertical and lateral movement during work. When in use, the inner and outer surfaces of PTO guards should be cleaned daily and lubricated weekly and checked often for signs of wear or damage. Never try to clear blockages from PTO shafts while the machine is running.
Follow the manufacturers’ recommended maintenance schedules. Frequency of inspections will depend on the amount of use and the conditions that the machinery is exposed to. Regularly inspect cables, brakes and lights, guards, safety devices, and tyre pressures to maintain safety and, depending on the equipment, carry out more detailed checks every few months or longer. Create a checklist for carrying out regular inspections and maintain an inspection record to help you keep track of maintenance.
Ensure that machinery is switched off and isolated from the power supply before you carry out any maintenance. Clear areas around the machinery and always wear appropriate PPE. When working on vehicles and movable equipment, make sure brakes are applied and wheels are chocked. If you do not have the skills to carry out maintenance work yourself, seek specialist help. If you hire a specialist contractor, ensure that they are competent to do the work.
If you carry out all of the above, you will have gone a long way to averting the risk of an accident due to machinery at your farm.