HSA running farm vehicle inspections this week and next

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) are running a two-week national inspection campaign with a focus on the safe use of tractors and quad bikes (ATVs) on farms.

The HSA are concerned with safety issues around farm vehicles in Ireland, and are placing the focus on tractors and quads, as they are a leading cause of vehicle related fatality on Irish farms.

In the five years 2018 to 2022, there were 34 vehicle related fatalities on Irish farms; of those, 18 involved tractors and four involved quads – of the four quad bike related fatalities, two involved children and two involved people over 60. Of the 18 farm fatalities related to tractors, 10 involved people aged 65 or over.

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.

It 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 new, and has been deemed necessary to reduce the number of serious injuries, particularly on farms. The new regulations, which apply to all workplaces, come into force in November 2023 and HSA inspectors will be offering guidance to farmers on ensuring compliance in advance of that deadline.

Pat Griffin, HSA senior inspector, said: "We’re 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.

"We urge farmers to plan ahead and make sure all involved in silage harvesting, all workers and contractors, have the necessary training and competence to do the job safely. Safe systems of work that minimise risk must be planned for on each farm and followed by all involved. Training must take place if it hasn’t 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 majority of injuries and fatalities with tractors, ATVs or farm machinery involve a combination of operator error, poor maintenance procedures 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 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?

Mr Griffin added: "We are asking all farmers and contractors, before the silage season starts, to complete the ‘Harvesting checklist’ in the new Farm Risk Assessment document to help identify any necessary improvements. (Also available through www.farmsafely.com).

"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."

For further information in relation to tractor and machinery safety on farms and a wide range of other farm safety topics, visit www.hsa.ie. To undertake the online risk assessment visit www.farmsafely.com.

The dedicated ‘Harvesting checklist’ risk assessment can be found on pages 17 to 19 in the Farm Risk Assessment Document and can be downloaded from HSA.ie here.