The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland has issued timely reminders about safety when using farm machinery.

They say machinery accidents are caused by a range of factors, including using a machine that is unsuitable for the task, failing to follow a safe system of work, or unsafe methods for clearing blockages or making adjustments.

Many agricultural machines have potentially dangerous moving parts, which can cause serious or fatal injuries.

One of the potentially serious risks is when using machines with power take-off shafts.

A tractor's power take-off (PTO), and the power take-off drive shaft of a machine, are very dangerous if used and not correctly guarded.



Before using a machine, check that guards are fitted, and make sure they are:

• Strong enough and securely attached to the machine.

• Not easily defeated, for example, require a tool to open, and are self-locking.

• Made of the right material. Plastic allows good visibility, but may be easily damaged.


All equipment and plant should be safely maintained in good working order. Maintenance work can introduce new hazards and risks that need to be controlled so the work can be undertaken safely.

• Safe Stop.

• Before you start maintenance work.

• Dealing with blockages or other problems.

• Isolating equipment.

• Pressurised plant.


Telehandlers are used extensively on farms, giving long reach to carry out multiple tasks. When using a telehandler:

• Travel with the boom lowered to make sure that the centre of gravity of the machine and the load is as low as possible to maximise stability.

• Carefully choose routes to avoid overhead power lines, very steep slopes or gradients, and slippery or loose surfaces.

• Adopt the correct driving direction and travelling position for negotiating a slope or gradient, eg when a load is carried, the load should face uphill. When no load is carried, the fork arms should face downhill.

• Avoid turning on or traversing a slope or gradient, and always descend straight down the gentlest gradient of a slope, instead of driving diagonally across it.

• Avoid stacking/de-stacking a load on a slope or gradient where you can.

• Use suitable scotches or supports if any work has to be carried out under a raised boom.

The operator should always look around and check for the presence of pedestrians before moving off and while manoeuvring and travelling.

Owners of these machines should follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedules for work equipment such as tractors and vehicles, lift trucks, ATVs (quad bikes), portable electrical equipment, and farm machinery.


In agriculture, lifting equipment covers a wide range of equipment, including:

• Tractor foreloaders, fork-lift trucks and telescopic handlers (telehandlers)

• Workshop hoists and rope hoists

• Cranes on machines (eg on lorries or fertiliser spreaders)

• Lifting attachments and accessories


Other workshop rules include when working on machines in workshops:

• Make sure brakes are applied and wheels chocked;

• Always prop raised bodies – do not rely on hydraulic systems for support; and

• Start and run engines with brakes on, and in neutral gear.


Check that you keep the workshop tidy and avoid tripping hazards such as trailing cables, tools, etc.