The hazards of harvesting

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“With harvest season here, it is essential farmers take steps to avoid accidents at what is one of the most dangerous times of the year,” says Phillip Pagin, H&H Insurance Brokers Rural Sales Director.

“At such a busy time of year, it is inevitable that risks increase and therefore it is essential to adapt accordingly, not only ensuring you are taking appropriate steps to manage these risks but also checking that you, your workers and your farm are properly covered.”

There are also less obvious dangers farmers need to be aware of, Philip warns. Accidents on the road involving farm machinery increase by 60% during harvest season as regular traffic grapples with the addition of large farm vehicles moving round the countryside. These can amount to costly repairs or payments, stalling the harvest and cutting into profit margins.

Harvest season brings with it increased strain on workers, often alleviated by the hiring of temporary staff to ease the pressure. Basic levels of knowledge such as road safety when driving a tractor or understanding when machinery isn’t running properly is essential to ensure accidents are avoided wherever possible by the temporary staff. Most employers liability policies will cover temporary workers, but care should be taken to declare the additional wage roll at the annual renewal review.

Agriculture remains the most dangerous industry in the country, with farm workers taking the brunt of accidents that occur in the workplace. Harvest season inevitably increases both the number of workers and the number of active machines on a farm, but there are ways to control risks, some being as simple as ensuring there are no loose fittings on machines – which can easily cause fires in dry weather. Issues such as these may often be minor, however, they can become a nuisance and incur a number of unnecessary costs to both machinery and crops.

Harvest season is also a prime time for thieves who target agricultural machinery and its parts. Insuring all equipment is crucial to protecting your farm from thieves and avoiding expensive replacements for uninsured property.

All farmers hope for good weather during harvest, however prolonged warm, dry weather can cause issues for machinery, leading to fires that can easily spread through dry straw. Baler fires are a particular risk, with the balers themselves requiring routine maintenance to lower the risks. Most motor insurance policies will include attached and detached cover for trailed implements such as balers and mowers, but farmers should note that their insurance provider must be notified if your baler is worth over a certain amount. Typically this is £30,000 although some insurers have recently increased this to £50,000. Check with your insurance adviser if in doubt.

Some insurers also apply what they call ‘cumulative limits’ in a given location. This means that they impose a maximum sum insured of between £500,000 and £750,000 for agricultural vehicles and trailed implements for any one claim. As the values of combine and forage harvesters continue to increase farmers should check these limits are not being breached as any claim may not be met in full.

Harvest season is integral to the livelihood of any farm, however it does come with added risks which must be acknowledged. If farms are properly insured and farmers are aware of the risks they not only fulfil their role as responsible employers but also as responsible business owners.

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