Helping farmers prepare for a safe harvest

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The NFU and National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) hosted an NFU Live event yesterday to discuss how farmers can prepare for a safe harvest this year, both on and off road.

The event provided an opportunity for farmers and growers across the country to delve into road safety compliance expectations and find out how contractors and farmers can better work together to improve safety and efficiency during harvest.

The panel, included NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts, NAAC chairman Matt Redman, Road Safety Officer for Avon and Somerset Police PC Dan Cox and HSE Agricultural Policy team representative Eve Macready Jones.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts, who chaired the event, highlighted the importance of looking out for each other throughout the harvest season.

He said: “Harvest is one of the busiest periods in the farming calendar. This often means we’re tired and stressed, so it is absolutely critical that we, and our employees, take extra care when it comes to safety.

“It’s also vital that we look out for each other. While it might be uncomfortable to point out a safety risk to a colleague or friend, we cannot be afraid to highlight where improvements can be made. It may well save a life.

“We also know that there is often an increase in road accidents around harvest-time as there is a much greater presence of agricultural vehicles on roads. While we are reliant on patient, responsible driving from other road users, we must do what we can to stay safe and legal which can be as simple as making sure we, or any workers, are not too tired.

“It’s important to recognise that safety does not have to mean a huge investment in time and money – it is about adopting simple measures, practices and processes that we embed into our everyday work. For example, on my farm we always follow the Safe Stop procedure1 and always make sure a colleague knows where we are when we are working alone and communicate with them regularly during the working day.”

Discussion surrounding what practical safety measures farmers can take, included:

  • Checking trailers for road safety and legal compliance;
  • Making sure vehicle drivers are trained and competent;
  • Ensuring workers have sufficient rest and are not fatigued.

NAAC chairman Matt Redman added: “Clear and efficient working between farmers and contractors is so important when it comes to getting the job done quickly and getting it done safely.

“Having a log of daily checks and maintenance is really useful and regular communication between the farmer and contractor can go a long way to keeping everyone safe. This can include providing information and maps of any hazards, contact details for someone on site for each party and agreeing emergency processes.

“We also need to ensure that the industry is using social media to encourage safe working rather than normalising and, as we see in some cases, celebrating unsafe activities. Too often we see improper uses of machinery or people using mobile phones on roads being promoted on social media and we need to make this something that is socially unacceptable.”

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