With slurry season well underway and silage time just around the corner – hopefully – the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is asking farmers to consider nine safety points every time they get into the cab.

Since the start of the millennium, HSENI warns that there have been seven deaths on Northern Irish farms due to faulty or poorly maintained tractor brakes and hand-brakes alone.

Many of these accidents can be simply avoided by ensuring that the parking brake is applied before leaving the tractor cab and regularly checking that the brakes and parking brakes are in good order.

HSENI warns that the slightest incline, where you park a tractor, can be enough to cause the tractor to roll downhill if the brakes have not been applied properly.


Malcolm Downey, HSENI farm safety inspector, said keeping your machinery in good condition was not just beneficial in terms of its performance – but also for safety.

He said: “All forms of farm machinery present many dangers if you do not keep them in a good condition and, while they allow farmers to work quicker and more efficiently, safety is critical when carrying out important maintenance.

“Accidents involving equipment is one of the four areas targeted by the Farm Safety Partnership’s on-going campaign – ‘Stop and Think SAFE’.

“The four main causes of death and injury on our farms are slurry, animals, falls and equipment (SAFE). Please remember, working with tractors and any machinery is a risky business – so always keep them properly maintained.

“Also, where faults arise, make sure that someone competent carries out any repairs.”


  1. Keep the brakes on all your machines properly maintained – especially the parking brakes;
  2. Ensure all guards are in place on tractors and equipment – especially PTO guards;
  3. Make sure that all mirrors and cameras (if fitted) are clean, correctly set and fully functional on tractors and telescopic handlers;
  4. Make sure equipment is stopped fully before clearing blockages;
  5. Operate tractors with enclosed safety cabs or roll bars;
  6. Take care when mounting or dismounting tractors or telescopic handlers;
  7. Only start your tractor from the driver’s seat;
  8. Make sure that your tractor’s starter system works properly;
  9. Make sure the brakes are connected to the tractor and work properly when pulling heavy machinery equipped with hydraulic brakes.

A list of things that should never be done was also provided.

  1. Attempt to repair machinery if you do not have the correct tools and equipment – or are not competent to do so;
  2. Run a tractor down a slope to start it;
  3. Work near overhead power lines when tipping trailers or using high-reach machinery;
  4. Check hydraulic pipes for leaks by running your finger or hand along them while they are connected and under pressure.