With harvest season here, the NFU is urging farmers and growers to keep safety in mind by ensuring machinery is properly maintained and operations are carried out safely.

NFU transport and inputs adviser Peter Garbutt said: “Harvest is the busiest and most crucial point in the farming calendar but also one of the most dangerous, with over a third of all fatal accidents occurring in the summer months. However, farmers and growers can carry out a number of common sense safety checks to make sure the harvest season goes as smoothly as possible.”

Basic maintenance checks on farm vehicles should cover lights, mirrors, guards and hoses, as well as ensuring that tractor hitches and trailer drawbar eyes do not show excessive wear which could cause them to detach. Tractor and trailer brakes should function correctly and the handbrake should be correctly adjusted – faulty handbrakes account for a surprisingly high proportion of accidents.

To minimise the risk of machinery fires, hot spots, such as engine and running gear compartments on combines, should be regularly checked and cleaned out. Whenever clearing or adjusting machinery, make sure it is switched off and the keys are removed to prevent it from being restarted while someone is in contact with the machinery.

Despite the delay to harvest, if machinery is running hot, it should be left to cool down – an engine fire will disrupt harvest more than taking a short break. Fire extinguishers should be carried in the cab of the combine and it is a good idea to carry another near the engine bay to tackle small fires.

When carrying out fieldwork, all operators should be aware of the height of their machinery and of any overhead wires they may encounter. Contact with electricity accounts for around one in 20 of all deaths on-farm and there have already been multiple accidents this season resulting from large machinery touching overhead power lines. If this happens, operators should try and stay in the cab to avoid making a contact between the machine and the earth. The power to the lines must be switched off as soon as possible and for this reason it is useful to carry the telephone number of the electricity company in the cab of each tractor.

Finally, it is strongly recommended that all farmers and growers carry a mobile phone with them at all times in the event of a fire or injury so the emergency services can be contacted.