Farmers are being warned to take extra precautions during the upcoming harvest season after heavy rainfall has left many farms in a perilous state.
Record rainfall during April and June has raised the prospect of a wet, difficult harvest in many parts of the UK.
Now insurer NFU Mutual is calling on farmers to make safety their top priority.
The news comes after farming was once again rated as the nation’s most dangerous profession by the Health & Safety Executive.
Chief claims manager Matthew Scott advised farmers to take extreme care of themselves and their workers as they tackled what could be the most difficult harvest for years.
“Following the UK’s wettest June on record and with more rain forecast, this year’s harvest is shaping up to be a real challenge,” he said.
“NFU Mutual’s experience built up insuring farms over 100 years indicates that the pressures of a wet harvest add to the strains on staff and machines. When people are tired there’s a greater risk of an accident, and sometimes temptation to keep going when conditions are unsafe.
“Equally, when working with wet or damaged crops, there’s a greater chance of machine blockages and breakdowns. Sadly, we still see accidents leading to deaths and very serious injuries where farmers have started to clear blockages with machines still running.
“Latest statistics show that farming remains the most dangerous occupation in the UK with nearly 50 deaths in accidents last year. So it’s important that everyone involved with farming pays close attention to working safely.
“As a mutual which has a close relationship with farmers, we do all we can to help farmers work safely and have put together guidelines to help farmers work safely through harvest.”
Farmers are advised to make sure they clean out dust and chaff from hot spots and resist the urge to keep going when temperature gauges are in the red or when warning devices are alerting the driver to a problem or fault.
It also advised to ensure drivers are aware of the locations and heights of power lines and check that the machinery will safely pass under wires and restrictions, as well as to put in place a system for keeping in contact with lone workers.
“Keep mobile phones on your person – not left in a tractor or pick up cab and keep a good first aid kit to hand,” a spokesman said.
Farmers are advised to instruct drivers to keep to safe speeds in the grain yard and to check signs are in place to help lorry drivers to go to the right place and alert members of the public to any potential hazards.
Ensure children are kept away from working areas.
“Ensure fire extinguishers are readily accessible for all and make sure ladders and platforms used for maintenance are up to the job and a safe system of work is in operation,” the spokesman added.