Students lead the way in farm safety innovation
Some of the most recent examples of farm safety innovation have come from third-level and second-level students across Ireland.

The focus of Farm Safety Week 2018 is to encourage good practice in farm safety and demonstrate how a safety conscious environment decreases the risk of an accident occurring. Constant strides are being made towards improving farm safety with innovation. Some of the most recent examples come from third-level and second-level students across Ireland.

Corey Breen developed a slurry alarm to warn of high levels of toxic gas.

Slurry alarm

Corey Breen, who studies agricultural science in UCD, has designed a slurry alarm which detects dangerous levels of potentially lethal gas released during agitation.

The idea is that the alarm would detect slurry gas once it reached a certain threshold telling people it is not safe to enter the shed. The alarm would then turn off once the levels were safe again. “It would be ideal to protect outsiders and young children who may venture down to the farmyard,” said Corey.

PTO sensor

Paul Donegan of IT Tralee has designed a detection system to disengage PTO shafts from operation in times of danger.

Paul Donegan, who has worked with machinery for 40 years, designed a PTO sensor.
With an orange and a red sensor, once the operator enters the perimeters set by the sensors, the PTO will disengage and have to be started from the cab of the tractor again. Six deaths out of the 64 machinery-related fatalities were due to entanglement in PTO shafts.

Both Corey Breen and Paul Donegan are part of the annual ESB farm safety challenge. The winner of this year’s competition will be decided at the National Ploughing Championships. Second-level students took part in the student enterprise national final day in May of this year and several entries prioritised farm safety in their innovation.

Lift arm assist

Edward Daly, Matthew O’Sullivan and John O’Brien from Kilkenny have developed an adaption to the lift arms of tractors.

Lift arm assist creators Matthew O'Sullivan, Edward Daly and John O'Brien at this year's National Enterprise Awards.
A hydraulic ram replaces the adjustable stabiliser arms of the tractor. The ram is controlled by the spool valves in the tractor and can push the arms in and out to the desired width. It is both labour saving and more efficient, according to Edward Daly. “We got the inspiration from our experience on farms. With John being a dairy farmer with only one tractor, it was taking a lot of time to change implements.” The product is marketed as a safety and labour saving device. Lift arm assist was the winner of the intermediate national enterprise award 2018.

The roofing safety bar

The invention created by Darragh Canny and Sean Keogh of St Patrick’s Classical School in Navan allows roofers to work safely without restricting the capability for work.

A roofing safety bar developed by Sean Keogh and Darragh Canny aims to stop falls from roofs during work.

The user can slide along the roof while being safely attached to the roofing safety bar (RSB), which is clamped on to the gable ends of the structure.

Falling from heights accounts for a significant amount of deaths in the workplace. The inspiration for the idea came from the first-hand experience Darragh and Sean had from their construction and farming backgrounds. “We both had summer jobs involved in construction and agriculture. We saw the safety measures that exist but we realised once you go up on a scaffold you are incredibly vulnerable,” said Darragh. The RSB came second in the national enterprise awards and featured in the BT Young Scientist Award 2018. The product is patented and stress-tested by engineers.

Darragh pointed out the strong overlap between the construction and agricultural industries when it comes to falling from heights.

Reel Easy

Reel Easy is a product designed by students Shane Dobson, Shane Hagan, Daniel Doherty, Shane Grimes and Luke Horson of Moyne Community School in Co Longford.

Shane Hagan and Daniel Doherty with their product Reel Easy.
The device aims to save time and remove the stress from a tedious job. The device tensions wire or tape when transferring it from a spool to a reel.

According to Daniel Doherty, “the focus of the product is to turn the two-person job into a one-person job.”

The product can save time on a farm and when it comes to farm safety, slowing down and taking your time can save lives. Having young people as the ambassadors for farm safety is important if the number of fatalities are to come down.

The student enterprise programme is run by the Local Enterprise Office every year. More information about the products is available on

Safe Family Farms: staying safe this silage season
Baled silage is made on over two-thirds of farms in Ireland and with silage season set to kick off in the coming weeks, David Wilson looks at some of the dangers associated with making baled silage.

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.