With first cuts now well under way throughout the country, many of our readers have been seeking advice when it comes to dealing and interacting with agricultural contractors.

COVID-19 has brought about many changes to how we go about our daily lives – changes which will be going nowhere anytime soon. To stay in line with the advice from the medical professionals and cap the spread of the virus, we all need to do our bit.

A tradition in many Irish farming households is inviting the silage crew into the house for food. With the number of people this involves in such close proximity, this can no longer be the case. However, if the desire is still there to offer food, it can be brought to an outdoor area where social distancing can be practised. Or food can be given to each driver and they can consume it in the cab of their tractor.

Understandably, both the farmer and contractor may be under pressure around the time the silage is being cut. However, good hygiene must still be practised. If encountering others, the minimum two metre social distance must be kept.

In the event of coughing or sneezing, this should be done into your elbow or into a tissue .

What should farmers do?

Farmers should aim to have a meeting with the contractor over the phone before the work starts. This phone call should allow both the farmer and contractor to reach a common understanding and establish clearly what work needs to be carried out and who is doing what. Doing this helps avoid any gaps in managing health and safety risks.

Silage time can be very exciting for younger children, many of whom might want to go for a spin in the tractor. Farmers should not put drivers in an awkward situation by making such a request. Stopping the spread of the virus should be a key priority for all parties. Farm families need to pay particular attention to child safety on farms, especially over the coming weeks with additional machinery travelling the roads and working around farmyards.

What should contractors do?

It is in the interest of the contractor to ensure that as a business they are adhering to the recommended guidelines. Before each individual job begins, both the farmer and contractor should liaise over a phone call in relation to the job being undertaken. Any possible confusion or queries should be addressed by phone beforehand if possible, allowing the job to run as smoothly as it can.

Where possible, a one driver, one machine approach should be taken to reduce the chance of spread of the virus. Antibacterial wipes should be kept in each machine and door handles and cab controls disinfected before and after use each day. Similarly, contractors, like any other employers, need to provide their employees with hand sanitiser.

If not already in place, signs should be placed on cab doors warning others that access to the cab is not permitted at any time. Contractors should advise staff to carry enough food and fluids for the day, cutting out stops to shops where possible.

Top tips

For farmers

  • Provide as clear instruction as possible.
  • Do not enter the cab with the driver.
  • Food can be provided but must be brought out to drivers while maintaining social distance.
  • For contractors

  • Apply a one driver, one machine approach if possible.
  • Disinfect machine door handles and controls before and after use.
  • Place signs on cab doors warning others not to enter.