The silage season is now firmly under way with huge progress made in the past few weeks thanks to the spell of good weather and the capacity of the machinery contractors are using.

Contractors are busy getting to all their customers as quickly as possible with harvesters, tractors and loaders pushed to their limits to get through the crops.

With this in mind, both farmers and contractors need to bear in mind the risks associated with working long hours in very sunny weather. According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), farm vehicles and machinery account for the highest proportion (27%) of farm deaths and accidents. People at risk include vehicle or machine operators and others in the vicinity.

1 Tiredness can kill: With narrow weather windows comes pressure to get through work. Be it a round baler or self-propelled forage harvester, these machines all have their limits – as do people. If you’re operating large machinery and fall asleep at the wheel the consequences can be deadly. If you’re working long hours and are feeling tired, take five minutes every hour to walk around the machine you are operating to make sure everything is operating correctly. This will give you a chance to stretch your legs.

Have a cup of coffee and some fruit with you as this will give you a boost of energy when you really need it. Always carry at least two litres of water in the cab with you.

2 Maintenance: Before you set off in the morning, make sure the tractor you are operating is fit for purpose. A few minutes walking around your tractor and implement checking for a loose wheel, a collapsed bearing, a worn belt, a slack chain or leaking tyre will not only save you time from a breakdown during the day but could also save a life.

It will also give you peace of mind, allowing you to focus on the task at hand and not be worrying about potential problems.

3 Organisation: Whether it’s having diesel ordered, tools and spares on the harvester or somewhere you can get a proper meal – this all helps to create a safer work environment. The last thing you want is to be rushing around at the last minute getting equipment ready when you should be in the field. Rushing maintenance or repairs will almost always lead to problems, delays and more pressure on you. Be ready and be safe.

4 Overhead wires: Whether it’s tipping a trailer in a yard, loading bales in a field or operating a self-propelled forage harvester, always keep an eye out for overhead electricity wires. Electricity does not give you a second chance. Even a fraction of the small amount of current that it takes to light a bulb is enough to cause your heart to stop. It causes extreme damage to body tissue and limbs. When operating mowers, drive well clear or ESB pole stays. These keep the poles steady and any damage can reduce the pole’s ability to stay upright.

The dos and don’ts when it comes to electricity safety:

  • Always keep well clear of fallen wires and contact ESB Networks immediately on 1850 372 999.
  • Never make any assumptions when it comes to electricity and electrical safety.
  • If there are taller machines being used from previous silage harvests or there are changes to the layout of fields, be vigilant that the wires are high enough and alert ESB Networks in good time.
  • Plan work that may be happening near overhead wires and alert ESB Networks in advance, where possible. The number to ring is 1850 372 999.
  • Electricity wires are always live, including fallen or low-hanging wires.
  • Never touch or approach fallen wires.
  • Never touch anything that may be in contact with electricity wires.
  • Stay fully informed about electricity – read Farm Safely with Electricity (available from ESB Networks or click on
  • In an emergency, phone 1850 372 999 immediately. Remember, there are no second chances with electricity.