Agriculture machine safety is a marathon, not a sprint.

Sport. Whether you’re an active participant or prefer the comfort of watching it from your favourite armchair, you’ll know about the importance of warming up before athletes launch into exercise. Whether it’s the stretches and crunches Usain Bolt goes through before his epic sprints, the gradual preparation of a marathon runner, or the laps of the pitch that the rugby substitutes make while waiting to go on – they all know what will happen if they miss out on these preparations.

Why am I rambling on about sports, warm-ups and exercise, in a blog related to agriculture? With good reason … bear with me.

Agriculture is one of the UK’s most dangerous industries. There were 167 deaths recorded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) between February 2016 and February 2017. The protection of the people who grow our food and look after the countryside has never been more important.

The demand to achieve a better profit margin through scaling up has meant that machines have grown in size considerably. Now we see high horsepower, incredibly productive – but very dangerous – pieces of equipment on almost every farm.

Then introduce the time element. At this time of the year, when harvest is in full swing and many contractors and growers around the UK and Europe are trying to beat the rain, time is precious and every minute counts. What’s more, spending so much time on these machines means it’s easy to forget just how dangerous they can be. It takes only a split second for something to happen that could change a life forever.

Yet safety doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, in many instances, just taking a little time to "warm up" when going about your day-to-day job can help avoid a long stretch on the sideline – or worse. It’s easy to say, “I’ll do that later,” or to think that there’s no time to lose with minor tasks. But it’s that kind of attitude that you could come to regret.

Below are a few very simple points taken from the HSE Safe Work Place Guidance:

Always practice Safe Stop

  • Handbrake on
  • Controls in neutral
  • Engine off and remove key

Think of the three key areas: Safe Vehicle, Safe Driver, Safe Site

Safe vehicle

Check that vehicles, machines and handling equipment are:

  • Capable of safely performing the jobs to be done, with reversing aids such as mirrors;
  • Inspected daily and faults repaired promptly; and
  • Properly maintained, paying particular attention to braking systems.

Check that your vehicles, or any machines with workers riding or working on them, are fitted with roll-over protective structures (ROPS) and seatbelts if there is a risk of overturning.

Check that:

  • Drivers of lift trucks and loaders are protected from falling objects;
  • Loads are stable and secure;
  • Trailers have adequate brakes designed for the maximum loads and speeds at which they will operate; and
  • Keys are kept secure when vehicles are not in use.

Safe driver

Check that drivers:

  • Are medically fit to drive;
  • Are properly trained and unauthorised people are not allowed to drive; and
  • Know how to safely enter and exit the vehicle.

Never allow passengers to ride on or in vehicle cabs unless they are sitting on a passenger seat in a safe position and cannot impede the driver, accidentally contact the machine controls, or obscure the driver’s vision.

Safe site

Check that:

  • Vehicles and pedestrians are separated where possible; and
  • Visiting drivers are aware of your rules, including parking areas, one-way systems, etc.;
  • Vehicle routes are established to reduce the need to reverse (e.g., by adding turning circles, or using one-way systems);
  • Traffic routes are properly maintained and adequately lit; and
  • Warning and speed limit signs are clear and consistent with the Highway Code.

Never approach or walk behind or beside a reversing vehicle. If you must approach, attract the driver’s attention first when it is safe to do so and get them to stop, especially if you need to speak to the driver or mount the machine.

  • Fit vehicles with audible alarms to warn people when they are reversing;
  • Never attempt to squeeze between a moving vehicle and a doorway or fixed object;
  • If possible, have separate doorways in buildings for vehicles and pedestrians; and
  • Wear high visibility clothing to help others see you.

Why not make safety a topic during your morning meeting? Take a look at the Toolbox Talks link at the top of this page.

Remember, be inspired by those winning athletes. Warm up, take your time and be safe!


Adrian Street

Current Role:

As the Agriculture Application Specialist, I spend much of my time working with our dealers, customers and our internal product groups. My main focus is to ensure that we deliver the best products and services to the agriculture industry across Europe. I really enjoy this role as I am lucky enough to get the opportunity to meet people from all aspects of the industry, building an understanding of the requirements that I then feed back internally, via our product groups and distribution teams. No two days are the same and the varied nature of the industry I work within makes this role a challenge I enjoy every day.

Previous Role:

I graduated from Harper Adams University in 2012. I worked within the agriculture industry for a number of years before, during and after studying at University. Then I took the role of Backhoe Loader Product Specialist for Europe, Africa and the Middle East at Caterpillar in 2014. In this role, I worked closely with engineering teams on future products, delivered product training to our dealer personnel and developed sales materials.

Toolbox Talks

Toolbox Talks

Help promote a safety culture with our series of Toolbox Talks. The videos are designed to be viewed prior to or during a work shift, covering a range of topics from product safety to site-wide issues.

Learn More