The Health and Safety Authority has today (Monday, April 17th, 2023) kicked off its two-week national inspection campaign, with a focus on the safe use of tractors and quad bikes (ATVs) on farms.
The safety watchdog is placing a specific focus on tractors and quad bikes (ATVs) as they continue to be a leading cause of vehicle-related fatality on Irish farms.
According to the body, the majority of injuries and fatalities with tractors involve a combination of:
- Operator error;
- Poor maintenance procedures;
- A lack of training;
- Presence of children/elderly near the work activity.
- In the five-year period 2018 to 2022, there were a total of 34 vehicle-related fatalities on Irish farms.
- Of the 34 vehicle-related fatalities, 18 involved tractors and 4 involved quad bikes (ATVs);
- Of the 4 quad bike (ATV) related fatalities, 2 involved children and 2 involved people over 60;
- Of the 18 farm fatalities involving tractors, 10 involved people aged 65 or over.
Farmers need to consider the following:
- Has the work activity been planned in advance?
- Have all drivers or operators received adequate instruction and training?
- Are brakes, handbrakes or parking brakes working properly?
- Are cabs and doors in good condition?
- Are tractor mirrors clean, in good condition and set correctly?
- Do all operators of vehicles have the correct PPE?
- Is work organised to avoid the presence of young children or other vulnerable individuals such as elderly family members?
The current Farm Safety Action plan was published by the HSA, in partnership with Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee to cover 2021- 2024 and focuses on safety-critical areas on farms.
The new plan places a particular focus on high-risk activities, particularly tractors, ATVs and general vehicle use.
The requirement for training and PPE when using an ATV for work purposes is a new requirement which has been deemed necessary to reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities resulting from the use of ATVs, particularly on farms.
The new regulations, which apply to all workplaces, come into force in November 2023, and HSA inspectors, during this campaign, will be offering guidance to farmers on ensuring compliance in advance of the November deadline.
Advice for farmers
According to Pat Griffin, senior inspector with the Health and Safety Authority, “We are running this inspection campaign primarily to encourage farmers to take time to plan for the safe use of tractors and machinery ahead of the busy silage harvesting season.”
He urges farmers to:
- Plan ahead;
- Ensure all involved in silage harvesting, all workers and contractors, have the necessary training and competence to do the job safely;
- Plan safe systems of work that minimise risk for each farm, and all involved should follow;
- Training must take place if it has not already, particularly for new operators, to ensure the safe use of all machinery;
- The condition of the machinery to be used is also critical, and any maintenance required should be identified and addressed now, well in advance of use, particularly to hitching, steering and braking systems.”
The authority is asking all farmers and contractors, before the silage season starts, to complete the dedicated ‘harvesting checklist’ in the new Farm Risk Assessment document to help identify any necessary improvements.
Serious injuries or further deaths can be prevented if farmers carry out this risk assessment, plan their work in advance, ensure important precautions are taken and remember to keep people and vehicles separate to ensure safety, Griffin highlighted in his closing remarks.