Harvest safety warning as tractor accident bill hits £67m

Farmers have been urged to make safety a priority during harvest after the bill for combine and tractor fires and accidents reached £67m last year.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual said it paid out millions of pounds in 2009 to farmers who had caused damage to expensive machinery – often in accidents that could have been easily avoided.

And with this year’s harvest just weeks away it has asked farmers to make simple safety checks ahead of combining and harvesting.

“Harvest time can put machinery and farmers under enormous stress – particularly if the weather is bad, said Ian Jewitt of NFU Mutual risk management services.

“The Mutual’s experience dealing with farmers’ claims shows that making safety top priority for all harvesting operations is crucial to avoid accidents which can cause deaths and injuries – as well as expensive damage to machinery.”

Pre-harvest combine checks

• Examine machinery carefully for vermin and corrosion damage. Keep a close watch for the first few minutes of running to prevent overheating or a short circuit, which could lead to a fire.

• Check tractors and trailers to ensure they are up to harvesting and are roadworthy.

• Fire extinguishers in combines should be tested to make sure they work and staff should be trained in their correct use.

• Check field entrances are not obscured by overgrown hedges to avoid accidents when turning into and out of fields from roads.

Harvesting operations

• Clean dust and chaff from hot spots.

• Stop combining when the temperate gauges are “in the red” or bearings are running hot.

• Ensure machines are switched off when clearing blockages or carrying out maintenance.

• Be aware of power lines and keep an eye out for lines that have sagged in case they can reach machines which passed safely the previous year.

• Keep a sprayer filled with water to hand attached to a tractor, in case of fire during very dry conditions.

Yard operations

• Keep children away from working areas; clearly mark pedestrian walkways.

• Clean dust from grain driers regularly to prevent fires.

• Make sure ladders and platforms used for maintenance are safe.

For more advice on farm safety call NFU Mutual Risk Management Services on 0800 132 029.