Farm Safety Week: Working with Bales and Falls from Heights


Before carrying out any work at height around the farm, ask yourself are you competent and have you the right equipment to carry out the work safely.

Farm Safety Week: Working with Bales and Falls from Heights

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Before carrying out any work at height around the farm, ask yourself are you competent and have you the right equipment to carry out the work safely.

As part of Farm Safety Week, we are highlighting farm safety tips in the hopes of raising awareness and reducing the number of accidents on Irish farms.

Every year farmers are killed or seriously injured due to falls from height and falling objects on their farms. In the past 10 years, 37 people have lost their lives due to falls and collapses on Irish farms. These farm accidents account for 18% of all fatalities in the agricultural sector.

Falls from a height are the major cause of accidents involving farm buildings, according to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), with fragile roof sheeting and skylights a significant risk when carrying out any work on them. Weathered skylights can be indistinguishable from other roofing material and become highly dangerous.

A young farmer died tragically while painting his shed when he climbed onto the shed roof. It collapsed under him, causing a fall of just over 3m.

Remember

Before carrying out any work at height around the farm involving minor repairs on sheds, on buildings or on silos, ask yourself are you competent and have you the right equipment to carry out the work safely.

Work other than very minor repairs is considered ‘construction work’ and the legal requirements for construction work must be complied with.

Working safely with bales

Farmers and contractors must understand and acknowledge the risks involved when dealing with all types of bales on farms. Causes of death and serious injury include being crushed by falling bales or rolled over by round bales. Farmers are also at risk of being crushed or trapped by tractors/farm machinery involved in transporting bales on the farm.

Wicklow farmer, Sean Malone, suffered serious injuries when a falling bale of hay crushed him, almost taking his life.

Good-practice tips when working with bales

  • If round bales must be stacked the safest stacking method is on their curved sides in a pyramid stack;
  • The bales on the outside of the bottom row should be prevented from moving by means of chocks or other supports;
  • The maximum height of the stack should be 3 bales high;
  • Use suitable bale handling equipment operated by a competent person to remove bales;
  • Remove the bales from the upper row first. Do NOT remove bales from the bottom or middle of the stack as this may lead to dislodgement and risk of being crushed by a falling bale;
  • Take into account the effect of the weight of the bales on axles and weight distribution of the machine or trailer when transporting bales;
  • If using bale spikes, two or more spikes are recommended to prevent rotation or loosening of the bale during transport;
  • When moving bales with a front-end loader or tele handler, keep the load as low as possible, avoid jerky movements and travel slowly;
  • It is essential that all tractors and front-end loaders used to move bales are fitted with approved cabs to provide falling-objects protection and roll-over protection;
  • Do NOT overload trailers and trucks used to transport bales;
  • Secure the load with suitable straps using double straps at the rear of the load;
  • Children should NOT be allowed on top of bales or bale trailers;
  • Keep children out of the farmyard or fields where bales are being moved, handled or transported.
Further reading on farm safety guidelines can be found on the Health and Safety Authority website.

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