While the improved weather will be very welcome in the coming days, Teagasc has warned it will also bring with it a dramatic increase in workload for farmers and contractors.

Injuries tend to spike when workload increases, so farmers are encouraged to work at a safe and steady pace.

The Irish Farmers Journalspoke to Teagasc health and safety specialists John McNamara and Francis Bligh on what farmers should be aware of over the coming weeks.


“Longer and busier working days may result in tiredness which can reduce reaction times, reduce concentration and lead to poor decision-making and, in turn, increase the likelihood of an incident occurring.

“It is important that you recognise and deal with fatigue by getting sufficient rest in advance, taking breaks and eating well,” they advised.

“Allocate time for rest and sleep. This can be a very hard decision when work needs to be done but the decision to stop work and get some rest may save your life.”

“Now is the time to plan the work that needs to be done and make preparations.

“Have fertiliser in the yard and ready to go. Carry out maintenance checks on machines, order oils, grease and wearing parts. Power-take-off (PTO) shaft covers and guards must be in place.


“If casual labour is likely to be required, take time now to talk to people who might be able to help you. Preparation and planning are key to reducing the risks of incidents: reviewing the farm safety code of practice for your farm is also essential and act on any identified hazards,” they said.

Farmers are advised to identify jobs that a contractor can do and be proactive about discussing these early with them.

“Your contractor will also be making decisions regarding management of their workload, so they may wish to call to get out some slurry or spread some fertiliser but as all farmers will need work done at the same time, they may only want to do the high priority work and then come back to complete other jobs.

“Be patient, as working together we will have more positive outcomes for everyone,” they said.

Cattle and sheep

Cattle are still housed on many farms, so before moving cattle to pasture Teagasc is advising farmers to take time to check fences, plan the task and group animals to maximise efficiency.

“Loading animals on to trailers is high-risk activity so take time to plan the task, make sure facilities are in good repair, gates are secure and you stay clear of danger. Many of the field operations that must take place will coincide with livestock breeding on grassland farms, so it is important to prioritise and delay any non-priority jobs or seek help,” McNamara said.

Breeding season is almost upon us, and while a lot of farmers will be using AI, there will be dangers with bulls over the next two months which must be kept in mind, Bligh added.

Tractor and machinery safety

The safety specialists said that ground continues to be very wet and will take time to dry out. “Be particularly cautious when using vehicles on sloping ground as traction could be poor. This applies particularly to ATVs.

“Drivers must be trained and competent to operate the machinery safely. Farmers and contractors must actively supervise drivers while they gain experience using machines.

Longer and busier working days may result in tiredness, Teagasc said. \ Philip Doyle

“On public roads, machinery operators must always anticipate other motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. It is important that the machine is used at an appropriate speed for the machine and the condition of the road.

“After the wet conditions, mud can arise at field entrances.

“Use warning signs and safety cones. Be sure to place these on the road verges and do not place them on the road surface without a permit.

“Soil deposited on to the public road by machinery must be removed to avoid a road traffic accident.

“Work both yourself and machinery at a steady pace.

“Forcing machines to operate faster to save time can result in lower efficiency, increased risk of breakdowns and higher risk of injuries,” they said.

Children and older people

“Children, older farmers and others on the farm who are not involved in farm activity should be kept away from farming tasks during this busy time. Children must be supervised when on the farm,” they added.

“Never carry children on farm vehicles. Both work tasks and machines are complex. They need your full concentration and attention.”