FBD Risk Manager
Get winter ready
Good planning and preparedness will help ensure your safety and the safety of others on the farm. Farm building maintenance, lighting, electrical safety, housekeeping, weather conditions and manual handling are all areas that need to be considered to ensure your safety on the farm this winter.
Farm building maintenance
Farm buildings and facilities should be inspected regularly, especially before and after extreme weather conditions. For example, if roofs are subject to excessive weight, the joists can give way. In very heavy snowstorms accompanied by acute snow accumulation of roofs, it is advisable to monitor the roofs and observe the integrity of the joists and the roofing material.
On foot of building inspections, maintenance and repair work should be carried out as appropriate. Remember, building maintenance work can be very dangerous – especially work at height – so it is essential that all work is properly planned, organised, supervised and carried out in a safe manner. Appropriate equipment for work at height should be carefully selected. Scaffolding and mobile elevated work platforms should be used as required. Never take chances and, where necessary, employ a specialist contractor.
Adequate lighting is invaluable, especially during the winter months when most activities are carried out during the dark evenings. You should only replace lights around the farm if you have a safe way of doing so. If not, it’s always best to call in a certified electrician who has the right safety equipment to carry out the work. When checking lights, make sure that all the fittings are at least splash-proof with an IP44 rating. The protection level for fittings in milking parlours and dairies should be IP45. Check that all lights are working and that they provide adequate light.
It’s always a good idea to check how electrically safe your farmyard is. Electrical fittings can become damaged due to wear and tear and some electrical fittings are not suitable for the outdoors. Now is the time to have them repaired or replaced with fittings that have the correct IP ratings. Always use an electrical contractor for this work.
Check that your RCD (residual current device) is working correctly, both mechanically and electrically. This test button should be pressed at regular intervals, approximately once a month. Remember to reset the switch after testing. Using portable electrical tools and equipment such as a power washer can cause electrocution. Always visually check that leads are not damaged. Never handle electrical equipment with wet hands or near water.
Keeping the yard tidy
Keeping the farm tidy and free from clutter makes a huge difference in terms of safety. By making sure that the yard is tidy, you are ultimately reducing the likelihood of slips, trips and falls. Clear drains regularly, particularly in anticipation for stormy weather.
Snow and freezing conditions
Farmers should be prepared for potential freezing and snowy conditions that the winter often brings. Ensure water supplies are protected by insulating exposed water pipes. During freezing conditions, milking equipment must be fully drained down after milking, and frost-protection heaters should be provided to ensure that milking equipment and other critical plant does not freeze up. Ensure anti-freeze levels are adequate in farm vehicles and de-ice all windscreens and mirrors before operation. Remember to grit pathways and yard surfaces during icy spells, to prevent the risk of falls on icy surfaces.
Farming, by its very nature, is a physically demanding occupation. This can especially be the case during the winter months, when the housing of livestock can lead to increased workload around the farm, whether it be carrying meal bags, forking silage or rolling bales. Always plan work activities so as to avoid and reduce manual handling activities. Ask yourself if it can be done differently in order to eliminate the manual handling, or to minimise the distance travelled, or the weight of the load, or the twisting movements required. Where manual handling cannot be avoided, use manual handling aids where possible, get help if required and always use a safe lifting technique.
Always think safety first!