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‘A 48-year-old was killed when a bale dropped out of the wrapper and rolled over him’

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has produced an information sheet on working safely with bales on farms.

In the document, it reminds members of the public that several fatalities have occurred whilst people are working with bales on farms across Ireland.

Some of whom have died as a result of being crushed by falling bales or rolled over by round bales. Others have been crushed or trapped by tractors or farm machinery which was involved in transporting or moving bales on the farm.

The document covers safe stacking locations, transporting bales using tractors and loaders, removing bales from stacks, child safety around bales and transporting bales using trailers and trucks.

That’s Farming will publish segments of the document in the coming days, with the first article focusing on transporting bales using tractors and loaders.


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  • The removal of round bales or square bales from fields and their subsequent transportation must be planned, ensuring a safe system of work is used that considers; risks arising from the machinery to be used, the competence and training of machinery operators, the ground conditions including slopes, the presence of overhead lines, securing of loads and the safety of the route to storage, the HSA advises.
  • Use bale handling equipment, tractors, tele handlers and trailers that are well-designed, safe and well-maintained.
  • Take into account the effect of the weight of the bales on axles and weight distribution of the machine or trailer.
  • Drivers must ensure that their view is not obscured. Ensure a traffic management plan is prepared, understood and implemented by all working on the farm to eliminate the risk of pedestrians and machinery coming into contact.
  • If using bale spikes, two or more spikes are recommended to prevent rotation or loosening of the bale during transport. Bale spikes should be removed, covered or folded back when travelling empty on the road so as not to pose a risk to road users.
  • If you need to dismount from the tractor or loader, which is transporting bales to carry out another task (for example, to open a gate or remove plastic from bales), ensure the hand brake is fully applied, switch off engine and remove the key. When moving bales with a tractor and front loader or tele-handler, keep the load as low as possible, avoid jerky movements and travel slowly. You may need to use weights on the front or rear to counterbalance the load and give good control of the steering.
  • It is essential that all tractors and front-end loaders used to move bales are fitted with approved cabs to provide falling objects protection (FOPS) and rollover protection (ROPS).

The authority has provided a number of case studies:

  • A 33-year-old farmer was found dead after he was crushed between a silage bale mounted on the front loader of his tractor and a feed barrier of the slatted unit;
  • A 40-year-old farmer was found trapped between a silage bale on the loading attachment of a teleporter and the feeding barrier of a slatted shed. He was pronounced dead at the scene;
  • A 48-year-old man was killed in a field when a bale dropped out of the baler wrapper and rolled over him.
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