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Contractors urged to implement safety protocols during silage season

The Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) has developed a series of documents containing advice and practical guidance on how contractors and farmers can work together during COVID-19 restrictions.

The FCI fact sheets were developed with the aim of adhering to health and safety protocol on the farm while allowing work to continue as normal during these challenging times.

The fact sheets include possible questions that the contractor is advised to ask of the farmer, and vice-versa, before the work begins.

FCI National Chairman, Richard White advised contractors, “At this time it is important to remember that the health of your team of skilled machine operators and that of your costumers remains your priority.”

The FCI stated that contractors and farmers must work together to meet their overlapping duties every time a contractor comes onto a farm. Over the phone meetings before work begins can help both farmer and contractor reach a common understanding.

Contractor Guidelines for Silage 2020

Members of the association have been provided with a cab warning stickers and all contractors are urged to regularly inform their driver teams about the following summary points:

  • Disinfect the interior tractor cab and door handles at the start and at the end of each day;
  • One driver, one machine, if you change drivers disinfect the cab and controls thoroughly;
  • Stick to social isolation and do not allow others, especially children, into the tractor cab;
  • It’s great that farmers can provide food for contractors and their operators, but you must adhere to social distancing rules so preferably eat outside on patio tables/yard tables – do not enter a customer’s home for food;
  • Provide a box of disposable plastic gloves in each tractor cab and replace each week;
  • No shaking hands, it is possible to give the instructions over the phone;
  • Maintain a minimum of two-meter safety social distance;
  • Cough into your elbow;
  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms, call HSE Live at 1850 24 1850.

Children on farms

Another cause for concern cited by the association is the number of children present on farms during the crisis, as most schools are closed.

Commenting on this issue, White said: “We are urging all farm families to pay particular attention to child safety on farms over the coming weeks. We are urging farm families not to allow children into silage fields when the harvesting is taking place, from the time of mowing onwards.

“We are appealing to them to keep children at a safe distance away from the silage pit as trailers unload and the process of building the silage clamp begins. The risks are simply too great.”

Silage Pit Safety

The Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) have received concerning reports that silage pits are being filled to excessive heights, increasing the risk involved for vehicle operators and others involved in the pit.

As a result of this, the association have provided the following guidelines of safe practise when working on a silage pit:

  • Contractors and farmers should plan and agree on safe operating procedures, especially with regard to silage pit/clamp filling heights, before silage harvesting commences;
  • As a general rule, the finished silage pit/camp should slope at no more than 45° to the retaining walls. Loader operators must ensure the stability of the rolling equipment to prevent loss of control or overturns;
  • The second rule of thumb is that the width across the top of the finished silage pit should be a minimum of three times the width of the loader, including dual wheels;
  • Where silage pits/clamps are full to a safe level and where more grass is required to be harvested, the option of baled silage must be considered;
  • Silage pits/clamps should not be constructed underneath or near ESB power lines;
  • The silage storage capacity on the farm should be assessed jointly by the contractor and the farmer to ensure the matching of facilities to existing and future stocking levels.

“We know it is a difficult balance between work, health and safety and your critical work challenges, often determined by weather and long draws, as a farm contractor during silage harvesting,” said Richard White.

“At FCI we advocate a reasonable approach in an effort to get the best outcome for contractors, their skilled people, and thousands of Irish farmers and their families that rely on skilled and experienced Contractors to provide their valuable and cost-effective machinery services each year.”

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