Now that the clocks have gone back an hour and we’ve enjoyed an extra hour in bed, farmers are coping with shorter daylight hours and inclement weather conditions.
Livestock farmers will now have their cattle in sheds for the winter and need to feed and bed these livestock in order they maintain their health and quality. This means not only starting work in the dark and finishing late in the evenings but sometimes coping with frozen water supplies to sheds and to grazing troughs in the fields
The low winter sun and short daylight hours also mean that visibility is impaired. Not only for the farmer but also for other workers and the general public. The use of Hi-Vis waistcoats or jackets must be encouraged, even when just walking dogs. Being seen, as well as being able to see is an absolute must.
Lighting in workshops needs to be in safe working order and making sure that there are no water leaks near electrics is vital. Needless to say, there also has to be adequate lighting throughout all farm buildings. At this time of year, many of the minor repair jobs following the harvest and autumn calving are being addressed and as the days grow shorter, the amount and quality of natural light also diminish.
Many farmers are considering building repairs in preparation for the winter storms. Roof repairs and maintenance are often high on the list of work to be carried out. Remember that working at height brings its own set of risks and these need to be considered before work is undertaken. Never carry out this type of work without another colleague on site. Skylights are easily seen from inside the building but are very often difficult to spot from the outside when at roof level. Many accidents happen unnecessarily when workers do not realise that there is a skylight and fall through it onto the hard ground several meters below.
All employers have a responsibility to their staff so they have a safe working environment and return home safe at the end of the working day. Although it is not practicable to have staff “clocking in” and “clocking out”, it is important that there is a system in place to identify if someone has not returned from a job and that everyone knows what to do.
There are still some outdoor farming activities that continue during winter: such as dairy, livestock, forestry, chickens, pigs. Anyone who is working in an area where they are not in direct sight and hearing of a colleague, especially considering machinery and vehicle noise, should be issued with an emergency whistle so that they can raise the alarm in an emergency. A whistle blow will carry far further than a shout.
• Extra lagging of pipes can help reduce frozen pipes, as can floating an item such as a ball in the trough, to stop ice forming.
• Investing in Hi-Vis waistcoats or jackets is not a great expense and can make the difference between a serious accident or safe working.
• Consider extra portable light stations in the workshop so these can be moved to the place of work as required.
• Building repairs are not the time for lone working.
• Crawler boards when on the roof of a building should be used at all times.
• Make sure all mobiles are working and charged and there is adequate signal
• Issue emergency whistles to staff who are working where there is machinery, or they are out of immediate sight and hearing of other colleagues.
Please keep safe this winter.