Farmers warned about dangers of fertiliser and seed bags

Farmers have been warned about the dangers of handling heavy seed and fertiliser bags ahead of the busy spring drilling and fieldwork period.

Farm business advisers Ceres Rural has issued new guidance on transporting and storing the large bags, and advised farmers not to cut corners on safety, have strict rules in place and ensure employees are properly trained.

See also: Safe farms, safe staff and visitors – a guide to legislation

Rob Gazely, farm health and safety adviser and a partner at the rural consultancy, warned that the bags are heavy objects that can cause injury to employees and damage to machinery if they are not handled appropriately.


“The Health and Safety Executive has recently issued a safety notice to remind users of wheeled loaders to manage the risk of vehicle-pedestrian collisions,” he said.

“In some of the reported fatality cases, poor forward visibility arising from the load being transported was the issue, with reversing also resulting in accidents.”

Farmers should ensure vehicles and pedestrians are kept apart to minimise the risk of a collision, and transporting seed and fertiliser bags out to the field must also be done with caution.

Additional mirrors or cameras may help improve visibility.

Fertiliser safety

Treated seed and fertiliser may contain dust or be corrosive, so anyone handling the bags and their contents should wear eye protection, overalls, gloves and safety boots.

Fertiliser must be stored separately from other materials in a well-ventilated building and stacked to a maximum of three bags high, with the bags interlocked for stability. They should be used on a first-in, first-out basis.

If fertiliser has to be kept outside, it should be stored on a raised, level surface and stacked in a pyramid. Stacks should be sheeted and rebuilt immediately if they are leaning or unstable.

Handling bags

The correct equipment should be used to handle the bags and loads must be secured when they are transported from the farm to the field, Mr Gazely said.

“Don’t exceed the safe working load of your machinery and make sure forklift tines have rounded edges or secured metal sleeves.”

The lifting loops on the bags must be checked and correctly placed on the tines, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and the operator should drive slowly and smoothly, especially on uneven ground.

“Don’t attempt to lift damaged bags and clean up any fertiliser spillages as soon as possible to prevent them from reaching drains or watercourses,” said Mr Gazely.

Other key advice:

  • Bags should be carried close to the ground to prevent the loader from becoming unbalanced
  • The bag should be kept parallel to the ground when lifted
  • Position bags centrally over the tank or hopper
  • Do not stand underneath a bag when lifting or emptying it
  • Be aware of people around you and other possible hazards such as overhead power lines or animals
  • Empty bags must be disposed of using an approved waste disposal contractor

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