ESB Networks at the Ploughing
There will be lots to do and see on the ESB Networks' stand at the ploughing championships for all the family, writes Peter Varley.

ESB Networks will again have a large stand at the National Ploughing Championships and they are inviting all electricity customers to come along.

ESB Networks public safety manager Arthur Byrne said it will be an opportunity for customers to experience how they continue to provide a safe and reliable electricity service that meets the ever-changing needs of their customers.

Arthur said he is looking forward to meeting customers and explained that there will be plenty of staff available on the day to discuss electrical safety and any other queries.

“There will be a lot of information available on the day about how the company works to ensure electricity is supplied to customers 365 days of the year,” Arthur explained. He said this information will be available interactively and using virtual reality technology and will be well worth a visit.

“At our stand we will have both indoor and outdoor exhibits to demonstrate the new technologies we are using to improve the electricity networks,” he said. The main attractions at the stand include:

  • The Dingle Interactive Experience: this will show in 3D how they are using smart technology to provide a modern, connected electricity network that links with the many smart devices that are becoming a feature of homes and workplaces, including the farm.
  • The network technician virtual reality experience: this allows you to become the ESB Networks person and experience in a virtual world how they carry out their work to connect customers, and repair the electricity networks during faults and times of major storms.
  • The connecting communities interactive exhibition: this is where you can play a game to create and build a community of homes and workplaces, build and connect the electricity network for that community, and then use innovative technologies that help us in our daily lives.
  • They will have their popular customer care and engineering advice centre where customers can come and speak with ESB Networks staff and have all their queries and requests for services dealt with.
  • Farm safety continues to be a major issue for everyone connected with farming and their farm safety area will highlight important safety advice, especially in relation to keeping a safe distance from overhead electricity wires and poles when farming, and to never approach fallen wires.
  • Immediately outside the stand, there will be a farm safety model and track where young people are asked to identify the different hazards on the model farm before they can operate remote-controlled farm vehicles around a model farm.
  • On display, they will have a range of vehicles old and new, including the electric vehicle and its charging equipment.
  • According to Arthur, the metre house is often of interest to customers curious about the benefits of getting a larger electricity supply for their farm.
  • ESB Networks in partnership with the Irish Farmers Journal will be recognising the finalists of the National Safety Challenge and showcasing the innovative ways and ideas that these second and third level students have developed as their contribution to improving safety and reducing farm accidents. As part of the Safe Family Farms initiative, they will be showing farm safety videos which are the personal stories from seven people affected by farm accidents.

    The ESB Network stand will be located at block 3, row 11, stand No. 251. “Please come along and experience how ESB Networks is continuing to innovate and meet the needs of all electricity customers” said Arthur.

    Autumn electrical safety message from Arthur Byrne

    At this time of year, it is important to remain vigilant around the farm and to keep the following key safety messages in mind:

    1 Watch out for overhead electricity wires when stacking and loading bales. Electricity wires can be closer than they appear and coming too close to live wires can result in a serious electrical accident. Electricity can jump gaps, so it is always very important to keep a safe distance and avoid the temptation to stack bales near ditches when often there are wires overhead.

    2 It is important to watch out for poles and overhead wires around the farmyard. Keep safe by always keeping loads as low as possible.

    3 When using wide machinery such as sprayers and cultivation equipment, avoid coming too close so as not to accidentally strike poles or interfere with earth wires and stays. Stay wires are very important to ensure that overhead wires are kept at a safe height – especially important at the midpoint between poles when the sag is at its greatest and the wires are at their lowest point.

    4 Now is the time to check the electrical wiring in the milking parlour and in the sheds. It is best to get a registered electrical contractor to do the repairs and give the electrical wiring the once-over. Replace lighting that is not working. Good lighting is important for safe working.

    5 When hedge-cutting, it is important to watch out for poles and stays which are often partially hidden. It is possible to receive an electric shock when cutting too close to poles and overhead wires. It is always safer to expose the pole and stay fully by removing any hedging using hand tools. If you or your contractor are concerned, then contact ESB Networks.

    Two important reminders are:

  • Carry out a simple test by pushing the “test” button on your RCD trip-switch; this is a safety device located at your electricity board/box. This test ensures that if electrical equipment and wiring gets damaged that this trip switch will operate properly when most needed. Push the text button, and simply reset.
  • If you see a fallen or low electricity wire, or a damaged pole, contact ESB Networks immediately on 1850-372 999. Contacting us immediately can make all the difference.
  • Remember electricity wires are always live; never approach or touch.

    Tax benefits of investing in health and safety
    There are a number of ways a farmer can make a farm safer while also benefiting from paying less tax

    There are plenty of ways to invest on your farm to try reduce your annual tax bill. But have you ever considered investing in safety measures that also save on your tax bill? We look at just some of the options available to farmers that can reduce the tax bill.

    Proactively investing in health and safety can help lower the number of fatalities, injuries, and illnesses on farms. It can boost a farm’s bottom line through savings in the tax bill while also improving productivity and farm safety.

    Invest in keeping children safe

    Adults have a huge responsibility to make sure that the risks posed to children on a farm are assessed and controls put in place to prevent death and injury.

  • To eliminate the risk of drowning, all open water tanks, wells and slurry tanks should be fenced off. The cost of fencing can be written off against tax.
  • Invest in child passenger seats with safety belts – children between the ages of seven and 16 may ride on a tractor provided the tractor is fitted with a properly designed and fitted passenger seat (with seatbelt) inside a safety cab or frame. The cost of child seats can be written off against tax.
  • Invest in a safe supply of electricity

    Risks from electrocution can be reduced or eliminated by investing. Any investment in infrastructure can be written off against a farm’s tax bill.

  • The fuse board should be regularly inspected by a competent electrician. The cost of service can be expensed.
  • Regularly check for and replace immediately any frayed and damaged cables around the farmyard. Place leads and cables in positions where they will be safe from damage. The cost of maintenance can be written off against tax.
  • Replace any domestic-type sockets, plugs or switches in farm buildings with the correct specification. This cost can be written off against tax.
  • Invest in a generator

    A portable generator is a useful farm investment and its cost can be written off against tax. If investing, it should have industrial-type sockets located on the generator frame for connection.

  • Generators supplying permanent wired installations should have mechanically interlocked switching facilities between ESB and generator supplies. The switch should be clearly marked to show the ESB generator on and off positions.
  • ESB Networks requires notification when a standby generator is to be installed on a farm.
  • Invest in farm fences

    Fences help prevent livestock from entering public places such as roads, which could cause an accident. Any investment in fencing is allowed against farm expenses.

  • Don’t run fences parallel to power lines because dangerous induced voltages might result.
  • Keep fence earth a minimum of 10m from main installation earth.
  • Never electrify barbed wire.
  • Maintain safe clearances from overhead wires.
  • Invest in safe shed doors

    Large doors which open on hinges can be a hazard on farms, especially if there are high winds. Replace hanging doors with roller-type doors. Any cost can be expensed and help reduce a farm’s tax bill.

    Invest in a cattle crush

    A well-built and functional cattle crush can help improve farm safety. The cost of a cattle crush can be written off against a farm’s tax bill.

    Other investments that will help make farmyards safer and can reduce a farm’s tax bill:

  • Avoid slips and trips by keeping the farmyard and farm buildings tidy at all times.
  • Invest in adequate lighting in the farmyard and buildings.
  • Put a vermin control programme in place on your farm.
  • Provide suitable washing and toilet facilities on your farm.
    Environment: slurry agitation safety
    As farmers gear up for slurry spreading, it is important to take all the necessary precautions to avoid accidents

    Over the coming weeks the focus will start turning to slurry spreading. Weather conditions and land trafficability at the moment are ideal and the hope is this trend will continue into the open period. Preparation for slurry spreading can be a dangerous task and farmers need to be fully alert to the dangers.

    In the Machinery section, slurry safety is covered in detail. One of the highest risk periods when working with slurry is agitating. There are a number of toxic gases that can be released during the agitation process such as hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide. We all need to be aware of the dangers and take precautions to avoid encounters with these poisonous gases. Slurry contractors also need to be made aware of the dangers. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has outlined a number of steps that should be taken every time you agitate. The top 10 are:

  • Evacuate and ventilate before you agitate.
  • Never agitate slurry in still air conditions.
  • Move all animals out of the shed before starting.
  • At least two people should be present at all times.
  • Keep children and elderly persons away from the area when agitating.
  • Open all doors and outlets to provide a draught.
  • Never stand over slats or near tank access points when agitation is in progress.
  • Avoid vigorous agitation in confined spaces.
  • Do not allow slurry to rise within 300mm of the slats or tank covers.
  • Keep all people away from the agitation point for 30 minutes after starting agitation.
  • Drowning is another slurry danger. According to the HSA it is the most common cause of death involving slurry. We all need to make sure manholes are covered securely and children are kept away when working with slurry. Scrape holes on outdoor lagoons should be adequately protected. Open slurry tanks should be protected by an unclimbable fence or wall at least 1.8 metres high, with locked gates. Covered or slatted tanks require access manholes that children cannot open easily. Fit a safety grid below the manhole to give secondary protection.

    What can we change in 2019 to make our farm safer?
    Peter Varley talks to senior inspector with the Health and Safety Authority about what every farmer's mindset needs to be to avoid accidents happening.

    Pat Griffin is the senior inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). He has seen it all when it comes to farm-related accidents. Pat shared some very good advice with the Irish Farmers Journal based on his experiences in the HSA.

    Pat believes that with some small changes to the everyday routine, farmers can make a big difference where safety is concerned. “When it comes to farm-related accidents, we always hear about the dreadful fatalities in the press. What we don’t hear about is the 3,000 non-fatal accidents that happen on farms annually,” Pat said. “These accidents are non-fatal but they can be very serious and often life-changing both for the individual and the extended family. Sadly, there are farmers confined to wheelchairs for life or who have suffered loss of limbs, due to these life changing accidents.”

    Pat added that other serious accidents have seen farmers unable to work for up to 100 days and the cost implications are huge. He believes one of the main causes of many of these accidents is simply from rushing around because adequate time is not given to planning out the working day.

    Advice

    Pat says 2019 should be the year that the circumstances which often lead to these serious accidents are changed for good.

    “This is where planning comes in. Consider the coming day’s work, preferably the night before or at least early in the morning. Identify the critical work that must to be done. Don’t put this critical necessary work on the long finger.

    "You don’t want to be in a situation where you are running around at the end of the day trying to complete it,” he said.

    “Also, during this planning you should identify work where you may need an extra pair of hands to help out. It might be a case of asking a neighbour or someone competent to help for the two-person task,” said Pat.

    “If you are struggling long-term to get all the work done in the day maybe it’s time to look at getting more regular labour for the farm, even if it’s on a part-time basis.”

    Pat said another area that is often forgotten but is critically important for a farmer’s well-being is “investing in yourself”.

    He said this is important because you are the most important asset to the farm.

    Many farmers have in recent years invested significantly in the farm whether it’s in tractors, machinery, buildings or livestock, but fail to invest anything in themselves.

    “Too many farmers have threadbare boots and loose, often torn clothing with a general reluctance to buy better gear. Small investment in good clothing is not just for comfort – it could save your life,” Pat said.

    “Every farmer should have boots and wellingtons with good grips and steels toecaps and soles. Loose clothing is not suitable for a farm because you will be far more prone to getting caught in moving machinery,” he said.

    He said next year should be the year farmers look after their general health too.

    “Is there any opportunity to get involved in something outside farming? Could you do a computer course, go swimming, play cards, anything to get away from the farm for a couple of hours,” he said.

    This will help you to recharge and unwind from the stress of the farm for a few hours every week and may give you a different perspective when you return.

    Code of practice

    According to Pat, a review of the code of practice must be done in 2019.

    “Why not review your risk assessment early in 2019 before the farm gets really busy,” he suggested.

    “Maybe if there are young people working on the farm they could be involved in this review.”

    Machinery is one area that needs particular attention when carrying out this review.

    “Tractors are the biggest killer, with 64 people killed as a direct consequence of a tractor or other vehicles such as quads and teleporters in the last 10 years, so these really need your full attention,” said Pat.

    “In a lot of cases the tractor rolls from its parked position and traps the operator or passer-by,” he said.

    The whole mindset around tractors needs to change, according to Pat.

    He believes essential checks need to be carried out daily – fuel level, mirrors, brakes, lights, windows, cab floor, etc.

    By doing these checks before you take off, you can avoid delays further down the road if something goes wrong. By being organised you are less likely to be rushing which has a direct correlation with a possible accident.

    Pat also suggested that farmers should install a hands-free kit in their tractor so they do not have to hold the phone to their ear.

    He said it makes tractor operation much safer. At the end of the working day, the tractor should be reverse-parked into its parking spot, avoiding slopes.

    The idea here is when visibility is poor in the morning you will have a much clearer view driving forward rather than reversing out of the parking position.

    Clearly, if someone follows you out to tell you something it will be far safer if you are not reversing the tractor with half-misted windows.

    He also suggests if the parking break or service break is poor they must be fixed as soon as possible and wheels chocked in the short term until they are fixed properly.

    When it comes to PTOs, Pat threw out an interesting statistic: “Inspections have found that up to 30% of PTOs on farms have defective PTO guarding. With an unguarded or poorly guarded PTO you are running a significant risk of a serious entanglement or loss of life. Where there is a properly fitted complete guard in place the risk is reduced to zer0 – it is one of the only elements in farm safety where our actions can reduce a safety risk to zero,” he pointed out.

    Calving facilities also need to be looked at in January, Pat warned.

    “Every farmer calving cows need good facilities and if you are feeding or tagging a calf there needs to be a physical barrier between you and the cows,” he concluded.

    The latest figures from the National Farm Survey shows a significant jump in non-fatal injuries from dealing with livestock, with being kicked, crushed or butted being the most common source of injury. Farmers should design and lay out their calving and livestock facilities to minimise direct contact with the livestock.

    Christmas Safety Tips – Arthur Byrne, public safety Manager with ESB networks

  • Only use electrical equipment, including Christmas lights that are in good condition.
  • Switch off all electrical appliances, including Christmas lights and phone chargers, last thing at night and when leaving the house.
  • Always unwind extension cords completely to avoid overheating and don’t overload sockets with adaptors or extension blocks.
  • Electricity wires are always live; never approach.
  • If you see fallen wires, keep clear and phone ESB Networks immediately on 1850 372 999/021 238 2410.