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Staying Safe During Harvest – Jamie Smart Guest Blog

Harvest is fast approaching, and with that in mind it is vital that everyone keeps up to speed on the rules, regulations and safety checks needed when using agricultural vehicles to travel and transport on the road, writes NFU Scotland’s Transport Advisor Jamie Smart.

This is a busy period for farmers and crofters across the country, but it’s important that you do not cut corners or take unnecessary risks. Stay legal and ensure that you, your family, employees, and others about remain alert, safe, and healthy.

Keep an eye on our channels as we will be sharing regular reminders about how to stay safe during harvest.

Here are some of the key issues and areas that even the seasoned farmer should remind themselves of over the coming months.

When operating machinery, make sure to carry out a daily check to ensure that all equipment is safe and functioning correctly. This includes completing daily checks on all lights (including warning beacons) and mirrors to ensure all are working and clean. You could even consider the use of cameras to increase visibility of blind spots or hard to see areas round a machine. Check that your windows are clean, your wipers are in good condition and your washer bottle is topped up. Make sure that all brakes are working properly - including the handbrake on trailers - hoses and couplings must also be in a good condition and not worn.

Ensure that passengers are only carried in properly constructed seats when driving - children under the age of 13 should not be carried in any agricultural vehicle. Drive with due care and consideration for all road users. Be aware that your slow-moving vehicles can cause queues of traffic to build up behind you, which can lead to frustration and other drivers taking risks. To minimize this, you should pull over, where safe and appropriate to do so, and allow faster vehicles to pass. If you can avoid it, do not travel in convoys, these make it difficult for other drivers to overtake.

When driving tractors, vehicles and machinery do not to use your mobile phone! Whether on a main road or on farm track. Using your phone whilst driving any vehicle on a public road is illegal and needs to be taken seriously.

When your vehicle is parked, or at any time when you leave it, apply the handbrake, put all controls in neutral, turn the engine off, and remove the ignition key. Remember to park the vehicle in such a way that does not pose a danger or obstruction to other road users.

When coming onto or off the road, you need to give sufficient warning for other road users. Take all reasonable precaution to prevent accidents occurring when manoeuvring in or out of concealed road entrances remembering that vehicles behind may think that you have left your indicator on or may not have seen it.

Try to avoid mud or other materials getting deposited on the road as a result of your activity. If your activities do lead to mud or other materials being on the road, clean this up as soon as possible as it can be a hazard for other road users. If you are undertaking an activity which will lead to prolonged and unavoidable mud on the road, you should take reasonable steps to minimise the amount and lessen the hazard it causes, including the use of signs. If you intentionally or recklessly allow mud to become a hazard, you could leave yourself liable to prosecution.

If you are carrying a load in a trailer, you need to make sure that it is secure and does not pose a risk to other road users. This includes loose loads such as grain or potatoes which may blow or roll off the trailer.

The natural curiosity of children and their fascination for working machines tends to draw them towards busy work areas. But children can be hard to see, and they are in great danger of being run over by moving machines. Set up clear boundaries for children when they are on farm, making sure they are only there when they can be properly supervised and there is no work going on which could be considered dangerous. Take time to check over your farm or croft and make any required adjustments, for the safety of children could save injury and life.  

Finally, please pay extra caution when working near powerlines, especially if operating large machinery or lifting bales etc. Remember you do not even need to touch the cables for an accident to occur, as electricity can jump over surprisingly large gaps.

Don’t forget NFU Scotland members are entitled to 20 minutes of free advice on all issues relating to vehicles. To access help via the NFUS Agriculture Vehicle and Transportation Helpline, please call me on the number listed in your handbook and have your membership details to hand.

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