Regular property maintenance is a must. If you carry this out, it will increase the life of both natural structures and buildings at your farm.
Regular maintenance will reduce damage caused by wear and tear, and prevent injury to livestock and people who use the property. It is a good idea to make a plan of the buildings on your farm, as well as marking out the natural features, buildings and routes around the farm which need regular maintenance. Include first aid stations, fire safety and any other equipment required for dealing with accidents.
It could be helpful to ask workers to report any maintenance issues they notice as they work around the farm. If your workers help you with maintenance, do ensure they receive the appropriate training to carry out the work safely.
Natural structures and fencing
Hedges and trees may need cutting annually. Contact your local authority to determine if any trees or hedges are protected by preservation orders. Use appropriate methods for tree work, and take particular care when using chainsaws or working at height. Follow correct procedures for hedge cutting, especially when using machinery on public roads, and ensure that motorists are given enough warning on approach. Be especially vigilant when using noisy machinery, as you may be unaware of approaching cars or people.
When maintaining watercourses, take extra care to avoid bank collapses or getting into difficulty in the water. Check all water structures such as water troughs, pipes and shut-off valves for leaks or blockages, and do not let waste water enter the mains supply. Use the Waterwise plan manage your water resources and save water.
Keep roads, walkways and commonly used routes free of obstructions or slippery substances. Ensure that they are adequately lit and that warning signs are erected where appropriate. Ensure that loading bays and turning circles are large enough and are free of obstacles. Place hazard signs around areas such as livestock pens, water bodies and slurry pits and ensure gates are maintained and locks on buildings containing hazardous materials are secure.
All farm buildings, including staff living quarters, should be checked regularly and must be maintained according to Health and Safety regulations. Carry out weather-critical operations at the right time of year and use risk assessments to plan for the impact of weather events, such as winter storms.
Ensure workshops and stores are uncluttered, have level floors, adequate storage space, good lighting and good ventilation. Work at height must be carried out in accordance to guidelines in the Work at Height Regulations 2005, using scaffolding, platforms and harnesses as necessary. Fix guard rails along catwalks, tanks or pits. Be aware that asbestos can be present in a building, for example, in roofs, insulation or wall partitions. As part of your risk assessment, you should locate and monitor the condition of asbestos and arrange the safe removal of any damaged asbestos to a licensed disposal site.
Where possible, plan the layout of farm buildings with safety in mind. Place workshops close to washing facilities and equipment stores. Place livestock effluent away from main farm buildings and ensure that hazardous areas such as slurry pits are fenced off, and that fuel, fertiliser and chemical stores are securely locked, situated well away from public areas, and away from potential fire hazards such as stacked bales.
There may be specific jobs for which you do not have the right skills or equipment, or which may require ‘signing off’ by a qualified contractor. When using a contractor, always ensure that they are qualified and have the right equipment to do the work. Check their certificates of competence. You need to provide the contractor with enough information to assess risks and hazards on your farm so that they can carry out the work safely. You also need to notify your workers that contractors are on site. Both you and the contractor have a duty to protect the health and safety of farm workers and others who may be affected by the contractor’s activities.
Before work starts, agree with the contractor exactly what work needs to be done and how you will work together. Establish safe working procedures that the contractor will follow, particularly when working on fragile roofs, near livestock or near working machinery. Make regular checks to ensure that the contractor is working to the agreed safe systems. Keep contractors informed of any changes to plans or work procedures that may affect their safety on site. If your contractor is a lone worker, ensure that they know what to do if they are injured or require assistance, and regularly visit the worksite to check on progress and safety.
The family home
Although maintenance of the family home is not covered by farm building regulations, you should consider incorporating a similar maintenance routine for your home. The electricity supply in the family home may contain a mixture of three-phase and single-phase supply, in which case, care must be taken to follow the correct procedures for each type of supply.
Do make sure you maintain outdoor lighting and security measures, as many farmhouses in the South West are in remote locations and are left unattended while family members are working.
Ensure that children’s play areas are fenced off, have secure gates with child-proof locks and are well away from routes used by farm vehicles, machinery and livestock.