Minimising claims and down time during silage season
The silage season is often high-pressure, fast-moving and with long hours. With working conditions like these, accidents may seem inevitable. Whilst your insurer will usually pay out for these accidents, the cost of having the entire team standing by whilst the mower is out of action for a day can quickly add up! However, there are steps you can take to minimise accidents and therefore reduce downtime and insurance claims.
The most common claim by far for silage teams is for accidental damage to mowers from objects in the field (e.g. a concrete water tank base). A conversation with the field owner about potential hazards, wet spots and so on or, even better a hazard map for each field, will reduce the risk of damage to mowers.
The second most common claim is foreign object damage, usually metal to the forage harvester. At the risk of teaching grandma to suck eggs, make sure your foragers pre-season service includes a thorough check of the metal detector’s effectiveness.
We really cannot emphasise this enough, but daily machinery checklists should be a part of day-to-day life in your farming business and even more so during busy times. This is particularly relevant for tractors and trailers which will be doing a lot of road work.
Completing and signing a checklist on a clipboard in the cab or workshop, or there are some apps available now which do the same job, which lists points to check (tyre pressure and wear, wheel nut tightness, simple brake tests and visual inspections of hydraulic hoses, towing eyes and pick-up hitches) should be the first job of each tractor driver’s day.
It reduces the risk of serious accidents and shows HSE or the DVSA that you take health and safety and the road worthiness of your vehicles and implements seriously should you ever be in a situation where this is being queried.
Road Usage & Relevant Policies
At the start of the season, ensure that you conduct training (which is recorded and signed by each member of staff) outlining your expectations for road usage. Some points to cover in this include:
-Plan routes to avoid villages where possible. Where this is not possible, ensure employees know what you consider to be a sensible speed through villages and built-up areas.
-Make sure you clean up any mud left on the roads at regular intervals and take a photo (on something like a smartphone so the photo has a time mark on it) as evidence of this.
-Consider which gateway access to use when leaving fields as front linkages and weights can protrude out onto highways long before a driver can see. Cutting back hedges around gateways to increase visibility is always a good idea.
-Ensure you have a mobile phone policy for employees outlining phone usage whilst driving. Make sure you have signed records to say that employees have seen this, understood it and agree to abide by it.
-Similarly, have a Cyclists and Vulnerable Road Users’ policy, outlining when a driver can overtake and when they should not. Again, have signed records to say that employees have seen this, understood it and agree to abide by it.
We also recommend that you invest in dash cams to be mounted on the road-side mirror facing backwards plus a forward facing one mounted in the cab. The money spent on this can easily be saved within a year due to not having the increase in premiums caused by a claim, and they can reduce the risk of prosecution.
Safe Practices In The Yard
With tractors and trailers arriving in the yard every 10-15 minutes, this can often lead to pinch points where accidents can happen. Conduct a risk assessment to highlight these risks and steps you are taking to minimise them.
-Where possible, introduce one-way systems and highlight blind spots and hazards.
-If you have public footpaths through the yard, make sure all drivers are aware of where they are and use appropriate signage to warn walkers that there will be heavy machinery in use on the farm.
-Any operators leaving their tractor in the yard should be wearing a hi-vis. This should be included in your health and safety training at the start of the season and, again, employees should have signed to say that they agree to abide by this.
Silage harvest staff will be expecting to work long days and long weeks over a long season. As the season progresses, it is inevitable that they will get tired and therefore the risk of accidents increases.
Actively consider ways in which you can allow them to finish slightly earlier one evening a week on a rota. This could be achieved through having a relief driver or perhaps through having a reduced staff when there is a shorter haul from the field to the clamp.
If nothing else, try to make sure they have at least one hot meal a day provided. This will not only give them energy but will give them one less thing to do when they finally walk through the door in the evening.
So often we seem claims reported which happened during that last hour in the evening in less-than-ideal conditions. Is it always worth pushing on for that extra hour?