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We are urging farmers to take extra care getting on with seasonal work and catch-up jobs delayed due to the wet winter.
“Winter and the start of spring were exceptionally wet, and rain and slips may have changed the risk profile on a farm. For example, tracks may have been affected,” said agriculture sector lead Al McCone.
“This means more care is needed to look out for potholes and hidden ditches, especially now warmer temperatures have brought spring grass growth that can cover these on infrequently used areas of the farm. Ensuring you are using the right vehicle for the conditions and paying attention to the terrain is crucial.
“The fact that much work has been delayed means there will be some pressure to get tasks completed on time. Many serious incidents we attend result from people trying to complete tasks in a hurry, or where people are fatigued but trying to fit in ‘one more job,” said Mr McCone.
This warning applies as much to contractors as it does to farmers because this is normally a busy time of year which has turned into a race to try and satisfy demand.
“Contractors need to ensure they have sufficient space for appropriate rest and nutrition. Otherwise they are in danger of making poor decisions, some of which may result in an incident where they end up off work for some time – or permanently.
“Communicating – face-to-face, by email , phone whatever works best - should happen before work starts so everybody clearly understands who is doing what, where, what risks are involved and how these are being managed.”
This includes physical changes to the landscape such as slippery surfaces resulting from wet weather, and work-related activities like spraying.
If the contractor is harvesting wood, communication between farmer and contractor about overlapping duties is all the more important as forestry workers may not be as familiar with on-farm risks as farm contractors.
“Woodlots planted 25 to 40 years ago are ready to harvest. Farmers with woodlots need to make sure experienced contractors are taken on to do this difficult and dangerous work, particularly if a woodlot is on a steep slope or has been left a few years longer until the price of wood rises,” Mr McCone said.