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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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‘No child under 13 should ever be carried in the cab of any machine involved in making silage’

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) reminds farmers and contractors to take extra care during the silage season.

It urges farmers and contractors to plan work accordingly to minimise any risks that could occur during this time.

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, farmers and contractors must also ensure they and their employees follow government guidelines concerning social distancing and hand washing. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for HSENI, said: “Working with silage can be a particularly dangerous time mainly because high-powered machinery is being operated at speed.”

“Tractors are drawing large amounts of silage from the fields back to the farmyard, which can result in small country roads being unexpectedly busy.”

“This, in turn, will have an impact on the people using these roads from commuters who travel the road regularly to get to and from work to people who live in the locality and use the roads for exercise.”

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“During the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers and contractors must be aware that during this time. there may be even more pedestrians and cyclists using country roads for exercise purposes.”

Other factors increase the chance of an incident occurring. These include:

  • Fatigue due to long working hours;
  • Poor weather and difficult ground conditions;
  • Inexperienced operators;
  • Using mobile phones when driving.

“However, it is up to the farmer or the contractor to manage these risks appropriately in order to prevent incidents occurring,” the spokesperson added.

Children and young people 

“No child under the age of 13 should ever be carried in the cab of any machine involved in making silage. Contractors must not allow children to ride in tractor cabs or the cabs of self-propelled harvesters.”

The HSENI said there are certain restrictions on what size, width and weights of tractors certain age groups can operate.

For example, a 16-year-old can only operate tractors less than 2.45m wide and tow trailers less than 2.45m wide with two wheels or four wheels close coupled (close together).

“Young children should not be allowed to play around the farmyard or fields when silage is being made. There should be a safe and secure play area available for young children to play in and younger children must always be supervised by a competent adult at all times.

“It is good practice for both adults and children to wear bright or reflective high visibility clothing during silage season as contractors may be working at times when visibility will be minimised.”

Studies have shown that a person wearing reflective or high visibility clothing will be seen 3 seconds quicker by a person driving a vehicle.

Machinery and vehicle safety 

All tractors and any other equipment used at silage time need to be properly maintained and kept in good condition. Breakdowns, due to poor maintenance, can lead to delays, adding extra cost and more pressure to an already busy schedule.

“Only competent drivers should be allowed to operate machinery during the silage season, and the carrying of passengers should be avoided.”

“Employers must also make sure they have undertaken a specific risk assessment for any young persons under the age of 18 who are working for them, which takes into consideration their experience, maturity and their awareness of risks.”

All guards must be in place on all equipment, and in particular, PTO shafts must be properly guarded.

If blockages need to be cleared by hand, this must only be carried out when the PTO drive has been switched off and sufficient time has been allowed for the machine to stop completely.

The contractor/supervisor or manager on site should be notified of any blockages by the driver and should offer assistance if required as many drivers are only competent in driving the machinery and not maintaining it.

It is essential to remove keys from tractors during maintenance operations.

Approved safety cabs or roll bars must be fitted on all tractors, these must be fitted in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines and by a competent person.

Take care when driving on the public road and watch out for other road users, especially when entering or leaving fields or yards.

Keep all lights and indicators in working order and ensure all mirrors and windows are cleaned to ensure good visibility for the driver.

Meanwhile, the HSA (Health and Safety Authority) has also urged farmers and contractors to carefully plan their work and complete their risk assessments as the busy silage season gets underway.

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