HSA’s national farm safety inspection campaign now underway

10th May 2024

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) launched a national farm safety campaign on Tuesday 7th May and are in the process of inspecting farms nationwide to focus on the safe use of tractors and other machinery and vehicles on the farm.

Farmers are currently facing very serious challenges as a result of the ongoing poor weather. In addition, the soft ground conditions have made the safe use of machinery even more vital. There is a short window of time before the busy harvesting season begins and it is during this window that farmers need to address any maintenance or servicing issues with their machinery and prepare for silage season.

According to Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority,

“We’re running this safety campaign to remind farmers of the need to plan ahead for the safe use of tractors and machinery during the busy silage harvesting season. Farmers must also ensure that all workers and contractors involved in silage harvesting have the necessary training and competence to do the job safely. Prevention is always the best policy when it comes to farm safety.”

Griffin continued,

“Farmers are facing many difficulties at the moment, but they will find that our inspectors will provide guidance to help ensure tragedy doesn’t strike their farm. The condition of the machinery to be used is critical, and any maintenance issues should be addressed now, well in advance of use, particularly in relation to hitching, steering, and braking systems. Given the extent of blind spots from tractors, loaders and other large harvesting machinery often involved in fatal incidents, the farmyard must be designated as a no-go area for pedestrians while large machinery is operating.”

Farm machinery and vehicles including tractors, teleporters, loaders, and quad bikes (ATVs), continue to be the leading cause of fatalities on Irish farms accounting for 51% of all farm fatalities over the last 10 years (2014 – 2023), with farmers over 65 and children at greatest risk.

  • Over these last 10 years, there were 96 machinery and vehicle related fatalities on Irish farms.
  • Of these 96 fatalities, 44 involved tractors, 10 involved loaders or teleporters and 10 involved quad bikes (ATVs).
  • In the same 10-year period, vehicles were involved in over a third (38%) of fatalities to persons aged 65 years or over (36 deaths).
  • Vehicles and machinery were involved in 94% of child deaths on farms (16 deaths), i.e. persons under 18 years, over the same period.

The majority of injuries and fatalities with tractors, loaders, ATVs or other farm machinery involve a combination of operator error, poor maintenance and a lack of training, combined with the presence of children/elderly near the work activity. Farmers need to consider the following:

  • Has the work activity been risk assessed and planned in advance?
  • Have all drivers or operators received adequate instruction and training?
  • Are excessive working hours and fatigue managed?
  • 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 personal protective equipment (PPE)?
  • Has the farmyard and silage pit area been designated as a no-go area for pedestrians while machinery is operating?
  • Is work organised to avoid the presence of young children or other vulnerable individuals such as elderly family members?

Pat Griffin added,

“We are asking all farmers and contractors, before the silage season starts, to complete the dedicated ‘Harvesting Checklist’ found in the current Farm Risk Assessment document to help identify any necessary improvements. Serious injuries or deaths can be prevented if farmers carry out this risk assessment, plan their work well in advance, ensure basic precautions are taken and remember to keep people and vehicles separate to ensure safety”.

  • For further information in relation to tractor and machinery safety on farms and a wide range of other farm safety topics, visit hsa.ie/farmsafety.
  • To undertake the online risk assessment visit farmsafely.com.
  • The dedicated ‘Harvesting Checklist’ risk assessment is available in the Farm Risk Assessment document and can be downloaded from the HSA website at this link.
  • For information on the management of farm work and fatigue to reduce safety and health risks. See Guidance on Managing Fatigue with Farm Work.