The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is set to begin a 'month-long, intensive' farm inspection campaign on Tuesday, May 2, focusing on tractors and farm machinery.

Approximately 500 inspections will be carried out; each year nearly half of all farm deaths, and many more serious accidents, are linked to tractors and machinery.

To date in 2017 there have been six farm fatalities, with four involving tractors or machinery, according to the HSA.

In an effort to reduce these accidents, HSA inspectors will be encouraging farmers to plan work and have systems in place that minimise risk, particularly during silage harvesting.

Many serious and fatal accidents on farms occur when someone is crushed or struck by machinery, Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with the HSA, said.

The movement of machinery, whether in the yard or in a field, can be hazardous and farmers need to be aware of the risks - particularly if there are young children living on or visiting the farm.

"Incidents of crushing someone against a building, a wall, a gate or of farmers themselves being caught in crush zones are too common.

"Crush zones are generally between the tractor and an attachment or machine or, indeed, within the machine itself.

"Farmers need to identify these zones and ensure that the risk to themselves or others being crushed is eliminated," Griffin said.

Guarding machinery

The guarding of machinery is also an important factor in preventing accidents; unguarded moving parts on a tractor or machine are 'drawing-in hazards', Griffin added.

“Wherever it is possible to install a guard, on a PTO shaft for example, you are required to do so.

It only takes a second to become entangled in an unguarded PTO shaft and the resulting injuries are devastating.

"Our inspectors will take enforcement action wherever they find tractors being operated with unguarded PTO shafts," he said.

A range of information on tractor and machinery safety is available on the HSA's website.

The HSA also carried out an extensive farm inspection campaign during the month of March, placing a particular focus on the safe handling of livestock.