Harvest warning over farmworker safety

A Hampshire farmer is warning people to take extra care during the busy harvest period after a farm accident left him without one of his workers for more than 10 weeks.

James Hewetson-Brown, who farms in Overton, Basingstoke, said the pressure of harvest may lead farmworkers to take shortcuts in a bid to save time.

But he said cutting corners meant safety could get overlooked and urged farmers to check their staff knew how to use machinery safely.

His warning came after one of his workers was off work for more than 10 weeks after he broke a hand while he was helping harvest turf.

The worker caught his hand and arm between the harvester’s drive shaft and the frame when he attempted to free a blockage.

“Harvests of all kinds present a busy period for farmers,” Mr Hewetson-Brown said.

“Everyone is under pressure and may overlook things or take shortcuts in order to finish jobs on time.

“But they need to review whether their machinery is properly safeguarded and whether safe systems of work for dealing with blockages and maintenance have been agreed and properly communicated to staff.”

Mr Hewetson-Brown said where finances allowed, farmers should look to invest in modern technology that was designed to keep everyone safer as well as to increase productivity.

Where this is not an option, older machinery may need guarding replacing or improving, he added.

“In addition, reminding machine drivers of the importance of following ‘safe stop’ procedures before anyone accesses any dangerous parts is very important.

“I am keen to run a safe and efficient operation and invest heavily in modern machinery and training for my staff.

“However, unfortunately for us, although we had recognised that the machine we used was old and in need of improvement, in the time between commissioning a new machine and it being built the accident occurred.

“The new machine, now in operation, is hydraulically driven with all dangerous parts properly safeguarded.”

To help farmers and staff stay safe during the harvest period, the NFU has produced a leaflet on using machinery safely. http://www.nfuonline.com/Our-work/Farm-safety/Guidance/Safety-focus-on–Farm-machinery/

Tips include:

• keep guards in position and effective

• “safety check” all equipment and put right all defects before each use

• check that controls are clearly marked to show what they do and which machine they control and are designed so you cannot operate them accidentally

• ensure guards are always in place covering dangerous parts of machinery, eg chain and sprockets, vee belts and pulley drives on all machines, including augers and graders

• take a few seconds to think before you act. Many accidents are caused by rushing to get the job done, particularly trying to make up lost time caused by spells of bad weather.

Farmers Weekly is helping spread safety messages by encouraging readers to share their stories of near-misses. Read other people’s – and add yours – on our website forums

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