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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Ensure you do not become another statistic: think safety

In this article, Elizabeth Long looks at top safety tips when working on your farm at night

Farming is one of the most hazardous occupations on the planet, with fatalities on farms making up 37% of all workplace deaths in Ireland in 2020. Farming at night increases the risk of accidents even further.

So how can farmers help keep themselves and others around them safe? We take a look.

Why do farmers work at night?

There are all kinds of reasons why farmers might choose to work at night.

Farming is heavily subject to the elements, so they might want to beat the weather, get a job done by a particular date or may need to work overnight to avoid warmer daytime temperatures.

For half of the year, daylight hours are limited, meaning that farm workers will frequently begin and end their day in the dark.

So what are the potential risks of nighttime farm work, and what can you do to minimise them?

A large part of reducing the risks associated with working on a farm at night is being able to identify potential problems before they occur. Let’s take a look at some of the options.

Provide adequate lighting

Farms contain a range of potentially dangerous machinery, and you can find much of that machinery in barns and outbuildings.

To make it easy for everyone to see what is going on, it is vital to have proper lighting in place.

Eliminate dark corners as much as possible, identify any potential trip hazards, and clearly mark if you cannot remove them.

Ensuring you have sufficient lighting in your buildings is an important part of being able to work safely, but it is not just inside that matters.

If you are working outdoors, ensure the area in which you are working is adequately lit, either through permanent floodlights or temporary lighting solutions. You should also check that all vehicles have working lights.

Be seen

Farm workers should ensure they wear reflective clothing when working at night so they can easily be seen, particularly if they are working anywhere near a road or near vehicles.

The same applies to vehicles – if they are parked up, then make sure they’re not left on blind bends, junctions or in shadows.

Get enough sleep

Fatigue is one of the leading causes of workplace accidents. Tired and exhausted people cut corners and make mistakes, and judgement and reaction time can be radically reduced.

For that reason, it is important that farm workers ensure they have adequate sleep.

With a huge workload, the temptation to keep going can be considerable, but it can also be a vicious circle.

If you are tired, you do not work as efficiently, taking longer to get things done while increasing the risk of an accident.

If you intend to work through the night during a particularly busy period, then it can be helpful to schedule a nap beforehand or organise shifts.

Prioritise sleep, and be honest about how much work you can realistically get done in the time you have available.

Take extra care when driving

Whilst sometimes necessary, driving in the dark carries a range of extra risks.

Your chances of having an accident increase considerably, and it requires extra care and attention, particularly if you are taking heavy machinery out on the road.

You should ensure you are aware of the extra safety considerations, such as keeping your windscreen clean, looking out for animals and driving at lower speeds.

There is no escaping from the fact that farm work can be dangerous and that nighttime work often cannot be avoided.

By being aware of the risks and doing what you can to minimise them, you can ensure that you do not become another statistic.

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