Top 10 Safety Tips for Farm Work

Many people employed in the agriculture industry have a tendency to think of themselves as being somewhere on a scale from ‘tough’ to ‘hardy’.

Yet illness and accidents are far from unknown in agriculture. Some of these arise because of a lack of awareness of the dangers that can be involved.

So to improve your chances of staying healthy and safe when working on farms, it’s worth considering the following:

• Make sure that your tetanus jabs are up-to-date. This disease is primarily linked with wounds that become infected by bacteria in soil and animal waste though it can also be caused by inhalation. Tetanus can make you seriously ill or even prove fatal in some cases. Some other shots might also be a good idea, depending upon where you are and what sort of work you’re engaged in. Check your local medical advice.

• If you do suffer some sort of wound then even if your tetanus shots are up to date, make sure you clean the injury with an appropriate product and dress it with bandages or similar to keep it clean.

• Even the best quality agricultural machinery can be highly dangerous and every year it causes numerous serious accidents. So, make sure you use safety equipment such as heavy-duty gloves, eye/face protection, hearing defenders and steel-capped boots. Remember, your employer may have a legal obligation to provide you with certain types of safety equipment.

• Be certain that you’ve been trained to safely operate the machinery you’re using. Many accidents are caused by misuse due to a lack of awareness and basic training. Don’t just assume you’ll ‘fly it by the seat of your pants’ to find out. A related tip – don’t fiddle or tamper with machinery you don’t understand. If it’s not ‘right’, get an expert to fix it.

• Working with livestock can be surprisingly dangerous. Cattle and pigs, for example, can be highly unpredictable or clumsy – particularly if they panic etc. That can and does kill people, so keep your wits about you. If you’re not very experienced with livestock, make a point of taking advice from older hands who are.

• Use plenty of barrier cream and wear a hat when working in the full sun. That’s to do with skin cancer of course but also make sure you drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.

• The dangers of dust inhalation are often hugely underestimated by people working in agriculture. Spores in hay, irritation caused by harvest dust, animal feedstuff dust – they’re all potentially harmful, particularly on a cumulative basis. The answer’s simple – use an appropriately graded mask.

• Don’t overwork. The links between stress and physical exhaustion to potential coronary incidents is well-known. Obviously many other risk factors come into play also, such as your age, overall health/fitness, weight, lifestyle and to some extent, genetics. Even so, if you’re dog tired then take a break or leave it until tomorrow. Don’t keep pushing yourself through ‘the wall’ day after day and make time for relaxation.

• Listen to your body. If you’re getting regular pain then stop and get it checked out rather than simply assume it’s just a short-term muscular problem. It is probably nothing but it could be something that needs medical attention including things like tendon troubles, vertebrae injuries or vascular problems.

A farm in many respects can be just as dangerous a workplace as a factory. Keep that in mind.

Farm Safety – Health and Safety Regulations

Although agriculture is considered to be a different area to most other types of businesses, the are still a number of health and safety regulations in force.

These will often differ from standard industrial regulations or orders, but are designed to have the same effect, to maximise the well-being and safety of employees. Most health and safety regulations will contain provision for fines and possible imprisonment for employers who flout them.

In the US, and in many other countries, there are provisions to protect children from being exploited by any employer. The age for this provision is normally set at 16. With regard to farming and agriculture there are normally exemptions to this age limit, setting it at 14 or 15. This normally applies to driving certain types of tractors and farming machinery, possibly including quad bikes and atvs.

The thinking behind the exception is that many younger people will have grown up on farms and be fairly mature in their approach to dealing with certain types of farm machinery.

Most countries will have very specific health and safety legislation, normally in a codified act setting out the responsibilities of employers and employees, and the penalties for failing to comply. Quite often these acts bring together previous legislation into a single bill which can easily be referred to and understood.

All health and safety legislation will apply to farms and agricultural businesses, unless they are specifically exempt from certain sections, in which case there will normally be alternative measures in place and referred to in the act as well.

Most health and safety acts will have some provision for a worker compensation law. This is where the employer has to pay into a fund that will cover any medical or rehabilitation costs of injuries that the employee suffers during the course of their employment. Although this can sometimes be a grey area, it does put a lot of onus on the employer to provide a safe working environment.

It also puts a responsibility on the employer to provide specific training for certain areas of work. In farming and agriculture this can be more difficult because a lot of the training is essentially on-the-job. Where it can apply specifically is to induction and training, regarding machinery and how to operate it. Aside from common sense, this could easily be a legal requirement.

The other main area where employees need to be protected in farming and agriculture is in regard to the handling of poison and other dangerous materials. This means that an employer will be bound to understand the requirements for pesticide safety training for all employees. This may well involve the issuing and use of personal protective equipment.

In addition, employees will need to be trained in decontamination procedures, both for themselves and for other people, sometimes in fairly unstable environments. An unsafe environment can refer either to a physical one, such as an area of the farm that is difficult to access, or to the weather making conditions extremely hard to perform this work in.

As many farms and agricultural businesses are in rural communities that are far from towns and cities, accessing emergency medical assistance can often be difficult. To this end,it is important, especially regarding pesticide safety, that all employees receive adequate training allowing them to perform basic first aid, possibly including CPR, and other medical training. This would allow employees to provide some type of basic care in the event of an emergency until proper medical assistance arrived.

Farm Safety and the Use of Vehicles on Public Roads

Most farms and agricultural businesses use a wide variety of different types of vehicles, ranging from tractors to combine harvesters to ATVs to different types of construction equipment.

In addition, many agricultural vehicles use different types of trailers to carry and transport loads both within the farm or agricultural business boundaries, which may well intersect with public highways as well.

It is also quite common for people on farms to use different types of normal motor vehicles and trailers to transport other pieces of agricultural machinery across that own land and public highways as well.

This area of the use of agricultural machinery on public highways is hugely important, because there are normally specific statutes and regulations relative to the use of agricultural machinery and their loads on public highways, as well as specific requirements regarding the age of who can drive what vehicles on such highways.

It is quite possible that the laws and regulations relating to public highways differ slightly from those relating to the use of these vehicles on a farm or agricultural business.

All regulations will differ slightly depending upon where the farm or agricultural businesses is based, but there are a number of important areas that can be highlighted, and where specific information needs be obtained.

It is important to understand how the local authority the following is what it means by a public highway. Whilst it might seem like the obvious to anyone who uses a normal motor vehicle, told highway can mean different things in terms of what types of vehicles allowed to use them.

Whilst most public roads will be open to any member of the public to use, there are likely to be restrictions on what types of vehicle can use them, and conditions as to the age of the person who may drive any vehicle on them.

One specific area that needs to be clarified is the age at which an operative may use any agricultural machinery on the public highway.

In order to use a motor vehicle on a public highway, a specific age will be delegated by the local authority. It is likely that someone of a lower age, quite often late teens will use agricultural machinery on farmland, and may wish to use such machinery on public highways as well.

A local authority is likely to recognise this as a potential issue, I have some type of statute that specifies what type of vehicle may be driven by people of specific ages. There is likely to be a distinction between a normal public highway, and a public highway that intersects farm or business land, which may simply involve a much smaller journey.

Tractors and agricultural machinery often carry large loads, which can present real hazards to other road users. These hazards can be because of the size of the load itself, or often because the size of the load and Vehicle must travel at a very slow speed, often causing congestion and frustration with other users of the road, which can generate potential hazards

Farm equipment may well have specific requirements by virtue of a statute concerning braking systems, bumpers, mirrors, horns and lights. A vehicle carrying any type of load needs to make sure that any trailer that has been used as fully functioning electrical and mechanical equipment as specified by local law.

The use of safety chains is not only good practice, but is likely to be a legal requirement as well. All loads are potentially a risk to other road users, either because they can list and either fall onto other users, or upset the power and driving capability of the vehicle that is pulling them. As such, loads should eat safely secured and checked, not only at the beginning of the journey, but at intermittent intervals throughout, when it is safe to do so.