How to avoid harvesting hazards

Harvest time brings risks
Harvest time brings risks

The 2014/2015 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures show that agriculture is once again one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, and with the risks amplified during harvest season.

Taking steps to alleviate risk is crucial to ensuring a smooth summer. While harvest can be a stressful time regardless of how well prepared farmers are, making the right preparations is crucial to ensuring the safety of farm workers and equipment.

“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 Patrick Quigley, account executive at H&H Insurance Brokers.

“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.”

With harvest well under way, there are also less obvious dangers farmers need to be aware of, Patrick 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 taking to the roads up and down the country. These accidents can amount to costly repairs or payments, stalling the harvest and cutting into profit margins.”

It is crucial that farmers and farmworkers think more about how their own driving could impact on other road users. Even though there are only a small percentage of agricultural vehicles involved in road accidents, the truth of the matter is that the effects of those accidents can be devastating, with the accidents involving farm vehicles and machines being more likely to lead to fatality than those involving any other type of vehicle.

With this in mind farmers and farmworkers need to be fully aware of the frustration a slow moving vehicle can cause other road users, and they are encouraged to do everything they can to eliminate any chance of a resulting accident, by being considerate and vigilant.

Patrick goes on to say: “Point 169 of the Highway Code states, ‘do not hold up a long queue of traffic,’ but the real problem faced here by tractor drivers is that there is little available information on what constitutes a long queue. The best advice we can offer is that drivers check their mirrors frequently and if they see a queue building, pull in at the first available opportunity, where it is safe, to let other road users pass.”

Other advice we can offer says Patrick is: “Ensure you and your workers are fully aware of the rules of the road in respect of tractor speed, mud on the road, tractor and trailer weights, young drivers, children in cabs and mobile phones. By doing so you are doing everything you can to ensure safety on the road and safeguarding against very costly accidents.”

Harvest season not only brings its own problems on the road but also increased strain on workers, often alleviated by the hiring of temporary staff to ease the pressure. A basic level of knowledge for temporary staff, such as road safety, or an understanding of when machinery isn’t running properly is essential to ensure accidents are avoided wherever possible. 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. The 2014/2015 figures show that there were nine fatalities for every 100,000 workers in the agricultural sector, making it the most dangerous industry in the country. 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 sundry equipment. 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.

For more information about the services that H&H Insurance Brokers offer please contact info@hhib.co.uk or visit www.hhinsurancebrokers.co.uk.