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Three-pronged approach to reduce risks this harvest

Machinery checks, operator licences and safety of seasonal staff crucial to minimise insurance risks.

With the combines rolling across the country, landowners and contractors are being urged to follow a three-pronged approach to help minimise risks during the busy harvest season.

While standard machinery checks will help reduce risk and potential disruption, farmers are also being urged to adopt a wider approach to contingency planning, considering the difficulties that can be faced in a catchy year, and growing responsibilities relating to seasonal workers and operators.

Machinery Checks

“The first area to always consider is your standard harvest machinery tests,” explains Nigel Wellings, director of Acres Insurance Brokers.

“Preparing, cleaning, checking and testing machinery is key, most apparently with machinery such as combine harvesters, but also consider areas such as storage machinery maintenance,” he adds.

“With the catchy harvest we are facing so far this year, many will be tempted to push machinery to the limits in the windows of good weather, but this is where you can encounter issues,” he explains.

“And when combining at 18 or 19% moisture, this can lead to belt slippage or belts wearing out sooner, which you should be aware of.”

Mr Wellings also advises to factor into insurance policies the cost to hire replacement machinery, for example should a major breakdown or fire damage interrupt harvesting. This type of insurance cover should be provided under the Business Interruption section of a farm insurance policy.

“You may be looking at a cost of upwards of £70,000 to hire a high-capacity combine to cover for the remainder of your harvest period,” he explains.

“The written off machine may be comprehensively insured on an agricultural vehicle policy, but while insures will pay out the market value of that machine, maybe within three to four weeks, they will not cover for the hire of a replacement.

“If cover is arranged properly on the Business Interruption section, you should be able to claim for the cost of hire for a replacement machine, to get the harvest done,” he adds.

Personal safety

Of course, amongst all concerns, the most important aspect will always remain keeping staff and the public safe. With additional seasonal staff and contractors on site during the harvest season, this in itself multiplies potential risk of accident or injury.

“With personal injury awards getting higher over the last decade, it is important to obtain the right public and employers liability cover,” states Mr Wellings.

“While a £10 million indemnity is an absolute minimum, we generally encourage £20 million, with claim cost awards often now in excess of £10 million, particularly if more than one person is injured and multiple claimants are seeking redress from the same pot,” he explains.

It is crucial to have health and safety policies in place, ensuring all employees, including any casual or non-paid volunteer workers, have seen a copy of the policy, or received a briefing, and have signed to say they have read it. Also, ensure risk assessments are in place and ensure all employees are aware of the risks involved.

Operator licences and qualifications

“One area that is often overlooked is ensuring staff operating machinery and agricultural vehicles hold the correct licences and qualifications,” continues Mr Wellings.

“For example, not all driving qualifications are equal. In the UK, when you pass your car driving test and acquire a category B licence, you are automatically entitled to a category F licence to drive a tractor.

“This is not always the case throughout Europe, so if employing harvesting staff from European countries, it is important not to assume anything. Check driving licences, as well of course as the right to work in the UK. Failure to do so could mean any insurance cover would be void,” he adds.

There are also different weight and speed restrictions on some agricultural machines, depending on factors such as type of vehicle, and age of operator, that should also be considered. Tracked vehicles also require a separate category H licence, and this requirement can be missed.

“Finally, make sure any existing motoring convictions by any employees operating agricultural vehicles or machinery are listed on insurance policies,” says Mr Wellings.

The right insurance cover

“The harvest season brings with it multiple potential risks and it is important to make sure you have not only taken all practical measures to minimise these risks, but that you have the right insurance cover in place in the event of an accident, interruption or injury,” he adds.

“Speak to your insurance broker and make sure you know what your policies cover, or run the risk of leaving yourself exposed to taking a serious hit on your harvest.”

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