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What you should consider before employing agricultural contractors

The HSENI is advising farmers to consider the following before they employ an agricultural contractor.

They stressed that the farmer, as well as the contractor, have a joint responsibility to ensure that work is carried out safely, so no one is injured or killed.

Spring and summer are seasons when agricultural contractors are particularly busy and are more likely to be employed.

To ensure this, it is advising farmers to;

  • Talk to the contractor before employing them, explain the jobs that need to be completed and satisfy yourself that they are competent to carry them out;
  • Ask friends and neighbours who have employed the contractor before as this can be a useful way to assess their suitability;
  • Most agricultural contractors use social media to promote their work, so check out their posts as it can tell you a lot about their attitude to health and safety;
  • Ask about the contractor’s accident history.

To help decide if the agricultural contractor has the right attitude to safety, here are some questions you should think about:

  • Does the contractor have public liability and employer’s liability insurance?
  • Will they plan the work in advance?
  • Do they have enough resources, such as people and machinery, to carry out the work safely?
  • Do they employ workers, who have the training to do the job safely? Consider operating vehicles such as telescopic handlers and other jobs where specific training is required.
  • Do they employ young workers? Are their youth and inexperience considered when allocating jobs? Have they received adequate training and are they supervised to ensure they follow safe working practices?
  • Do they allow sufficient breaks, so workers don’t suffer from driver fatigue?
  • Is mobile phone use forbidden when operating machinery?
  • Are drivers/employees reminded that it is against the law for children under 13 to be carried on agricultural vehicles and machinery during agricultural operations?
  • Do they keep vehicles and machinery in a safe, road-worthy condition with good all-round visibility and adequate lighting?
  • Are PTO guards maintained and properly adjusted to ensure the full shaft is covered? Are employees encouraged to report defects with PTOs?
  • Do they communicate with you on expected arrival times/ how long they expect to be working on your farm/working arrangements ect?
  • Have they considered emergency procedures including first-aid?
  • Do they check for location of overhead power lines before work commences?

“This list is not exhaustive – there may be many more questions a farmer needs to put to an agricultural contractor before work commences.” the HSENI explained.

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