Statistics from the Health and Safety Authority show that over 50% of fatal accidents on farms are caused by tractors or machinery. The bigger the machine, the more difficult it becomes to keep an eye on what’s going on around the operator. During the silage season, contractors and farmers are often under pressure and should be made aware of anyone who is present in areas of activity.

Children are especially vulnerable due to their size and inquisitive nature as they are generally keen to be in the thick of the action. Children should never be present when silage-making activities are ongoing, and farmers should ensure that they are properly supervised at all times.


Regulations are put in place for agricultural machinery to reduce the risk of accidents and make the road safe for all users. The maximum length permitted for a tractor and trailer combined is 18.75m, with weight restrictions varying on different-sized trailers. The height restriction of 4.65m does not apply to vehicles and trailers transporting agricultural produce which is baled, but bales must not overhang the edges or trailers and all bales must be tied down by law. Check your trailer before the season starts for weight capacity, working brakes, working lights and condition of tyres.

When moving bales with a tractor or telehandler, keep the load as low as possible, avoid jerky movements and travel slowly. Drivers must ensure that their view is not obscured. Weights on the front or rear may be needed to counterbalance the load and give good control of the steering.

Spike handlers require two or more spikes to prevent rotation or loosening of the bale during transport. When travelling on the public road, bale spikes should be removed, covered or folded back when travelling empty. Passengers must not be carried except when correct seating is provided.

Overhead wires

While there are no set height restrictions if bales are safely secured, safety officer with the ESB Arthur Byrne says the network is concerned about a number of incidents where tractors pulling high loads of hay and straw have come in contact with the overhead electricity network.

“In one case, where a high load pulled down live electricity wires, both the tractor and load caught fire. Thankfully, the driver escaped injury, but it serves as a timely warning to the farming community on these hazards.”

When loading hay and straw on to a tractor or lorry, the ESB advises “to always ensure that the load is low enough to allow for safe transit and avoid putting the public at risk”.

When planning the route with a high load, identify where electricity wires cross the road. Where there is doubt, establish if there is adequate clearance and, if necessary, contact ESB Networks.

The ESB warns to never, under any circumstances, touch an electricity wire or anything the wire may be in contact with, including the inside or outside of a tractor/lorry/trailer, etc. Please contact ESB Networks immediately on 1850 372 999.


Whether it be mowers, rakes, tedders or balers, machinery poses a serious risk to life and limb if not treated with respect. When the pressure comes on, it is easy for a farmer or contractor to cut corners.

If you must enter the chamber of the baler, use the safety bars or hydraulics to keep the rear door open. All power take-off drive shafts must be fully guarded. Should any machine block up, disengage the PTO and switch off the tractor before assessing the situation and remember to always apply the handbrake before leaving the cab. It is the simple things that often pose the biggest risk.

Correct storage

Bales should be stored on a flat, dry surface, and the area should be uncluttered. This will allow you to remove or stack the bales in a convenient and safe manner. If space permits, round bales should be stored on their flat end and no more than one bale high. Should stacking of bales be required, the safest stacking method is on their curved sides in a pyramid stack. The maximum height of pyramid stacks is three bales and bales on the outside of the bottom row should be supported by chocks to prevent moving.

Square bales should be stacked using an unlocking pattern to tie in the bales with the row underneath. The maximum height of a stack of square bales should be one and a half times the width of the base.