The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all, and in many different ways. Perhaps one of the most under-reported consequences of the outbreak is that, for some people, the restrictions placed on working and social lives is having an impact on their wellbeing and mental health. And farmers are not immune.
There is no doubt that coronavirus is adding to the mental strain already being felt around issues such as Brexit and the unpredictable weather patterns that have played havoc with harvest and crop establishment. As a result, some farmers are working harder than ever with little or no respite. Fatigue creeps in and that can lead to complacency and corner-cutting, increasing the risk of accidents.
Regrettably, agriculture has the poorest safety record of any industry in the UK. Farming accounts for 1% of the economy but 20% of all workplace deaths. According to the HSE’s latest annual work-related fatalities report, 20 farm workers lost their lives in the workplace over the year to March 2020. Whilst this represents a substantial decrease compared with the previous year, it is still 20 too many. Worryingly, in the current year, there have already been 8 deaths in the months of April and May alone and several further fatalities, involving farm machinery, livestock and falls from height, have been reported since.
Farm machinery, in particular, can be dangerous if sensible safety precautions are not followed or if the machinery is not operated correctly or properly maintained.
Manufacturers also have a role to play by making safety a top priority in product design and their ongoing research and development.
Towing the safety line
Dromone Engineering, for example, have incorporated some innovative features to further enhance the safety of their pick-up hitches and coupling systems. They have paid particular attention to the safety chain systems used when towing trailers.
The job of a safety chain is to ensure a trailer remains attached to the tractor, even if the primary hitch fails. Until recently, many people used long horizontal type chains for this task, but there are inherent risks with this approach.
Should the primary hitch fail, a long chain gives too much freedom to the trailer drawbar, potentially allowing it to come up through the rear window of the tractor, causing injury or even death to the driver. Dromone engineers came up with a vertical chain position that only allows four to five inches of movement of the trailer should the primary hitch fail.
Brackets on the tractor and trailer have an automatic locking system for the chain to be received and prevent it from escaping. The Dromone system is safer and prevents both injury to the driver and damage to the back of the tractor.
Award winning innovation
More recently Dromone launched their new Hitched & Locked (HAL) system, which has since won a major safety award. Designed for use with the Dromone hydraulic pick-up hitch, the new system uses smart technology to confirm to the operator that the attachment has been hitched safely and securely locked.
Using integrated sensors and controls, audio and visual signals are sent to the cab of the tractor. The combination of sensors provides assurance that locking is secure and safe in both vertical and horizontal positions. The in-cab feedback protects against human error by helping to ensure the operator can’t drive away with an unlocked pick-up hitch.
Safety on the road
Meanwhile, the safety of road users in the countryside has been occupying the minds of the design and engineering teams at Zuidberg.
As tractors have continued to increase in size and weight so too has the potential for cars, vans or motorcycles to be mounted and crushed under a tractor with no front wheel protection.
An Override Protection System, developed by Zuidberg to fit a wide range of tractors is designed to absorb the impact of a front-on collision and deflect the other vehicle away from the tractor instead of ending up underneath it.
There are two different versions of the system. The first version can be used with compatible front weights between 850 and 1400 kg. A second multi-functional version can be combined with both the usual 3-point front linkage, and with any A-frame quick hitch. This version also comes supplied with a built-in tow-bar and can be extended with a storage space/toolbox. Both versions are of a sleek design, adjustable in width and come with all legally required width markings applied. They are suitable for all types of tractor equipped with front linkages and can be supplied to match original tractor colours. Smart technology in the bumper prevents snapping when reversing and all versions can be fitted with integrated LED marker lighting in order to further improve visibility and recognisability.
Guard that PTO
Tractor PTOs can be a source of real danger if not properly guarded. Zuidberg front PTOs incorporate a protection cap for the outgoing shaft which helps to reduce the risk of a rotating pot snagging loose clothing or material and causing potentially serious injury. Best practice on the farm is to ensure that the PTO shaft is fully guarded along its full length from the tractor to the first bearing on the machine with a guard that is best suited to tractor and implement. Check that the guard is properly chained, lubricated and free from defects. Buying a new guard? The latest PTO shaft guard designs are much easier to fit, maintain and replace than some of their older counterparts. Talk to your dealer for advice about the best guard for your needs.
Safer load handling
When operating farm machinery, having a good clear view of the working area is essential for the safety of the driver and to avoid impact with any objects or equipment that may be in the vicinity.
Stoll ProfiLine front loaders feature Z-kinematics technology. As well as achieving a particularly slim design with no compromise in strength or power, Z-kinematics integrates the mechanical parallel linkage rods within the lifting arms so that the driver enjoys a completely clear view around the tractor, maximising safety and precision.
A camera system is also available to provide an even better panoramic view around the tractor.
Stoll’s ProfiLine and CompactLine models are also available with an anti-lowering guard system which protects against the unintended lowering of the loader.
Some useful resources
*Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence