What you need to do...
The law says that any equipment - including machinery - that you use at work must be suitable for the task, properly maintained, with dangerous parts safeguarded, and that adequate training and information about the equipment is available. Equipment must be stable, and stop controls, including emergency stops, must be provided. The key issues are:
What you need to know...
Many serious accidents on farms involve machinery. Some happen because a machine has been used for a job for which it is unsuitable; others because guards have not been provided or have been left off.
Power take-off (PTO) shafts have been involved in many fatal injuries, often with machines used while stationary, such as slurry handling or feed milling and mixing.
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Buying new machinery
Buying machinery can be one of the biggest investments you make, and the profitability of the business can depend on it doing the right job well, safely, and without affecting people’s health.
When buying new machinery, check:
- it is ‘CE’ marked and supplied with a Certificate of Conformity;
- it is suitable for the intended use;
- for all-round visibility and ways this can be improved for safe reversing;
- that tractors and other self-propelled machines are fitted with suitable roll-over protection;
- the maximum operating height of machines in relation to clearance under any overhead power lines (OHPLs) on your land;
- likely dust or fume emissions;
- how easy it is to maintain;
- what steps the manufacturer has taken to make it safe for you to clear blockages;
- that instructions are provided as well as a workshop manual if you intend to service the machine yourself;
- information on noise and vibration levels is included in the operator’s manual;
- whether operators need training to use the machine safely.
Buying second-hand machinery
When buying second-hand machines, check:
- tractors and machinery comply with the requirements of PUWER (see Using machines safely). If not, you must bring them up to the required standard before you use them;
- the operator’s manual is provided or that suitable information can be obtained (for example, from the original manufacturer);
- that any missing or damaged guards can be replaced or repaired before using the machine.
When you buy or hire machines the law requires the supplier to provide necessary safeguards.
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Using machines safely
- Make sure the machine is suitable for the job (for example, a telescopic handler with a grain bucket used to lift a person for work at a height, would not be suitable).
- You should be able to recognise dangerous parts and think about how to prevent injury when you do your risk assessment.
- If you provide safeguards which are inconvenient to use or which can be too easily removed, you may inadvertently encourage your employees to risk injury and break the law;
- You should have a system to check that machinery is safe to use;
- If safety depends on how the equipment has been installed, you should inspect it to ensure it has been set up correctly;
- Inspect equipment regularly for deterioration. Keep records of all inspections.
Make sure you and your workers:
- use machines according to the instructions supplied with them;
- keep guards in position and effective;
- maintain machines so they can be used safely;
- ‘safety check’ all equipment and put right all defects before each use;
- check that controls are clearly marked to show what they do and which machine they control, and are designed so you cannot operate them accidentally;
- check that stationary machines are adequately lit;
- check that electrical machinery is isolated and locked-off if safeguards are removed;
- are trained to work safely and are provided with and use necessary protective clothing.
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Power take-off shaft guards
For power take-off (PTO) shaft guards, check that the guard is:
- made to a recognised standard such as BS EN ISO 5674;
- the correct size and length for the shaft, both when closed and when extended;
- a non-rotating type, with the restraining device (for example, securing chains) in place;
- properly used and maintained. Clean and lubricate guards regularly;
- supported when not connected. Do not rest it on the drawbar or drop it on the ground, and do not suspend it by the restraining device;
- safe from damage, for example, by livestock, when the machine is in store.
Make sure no one uses adaptors to allow a 21 spline 1000 rpm shaft to drive a 6 spline 540 rpm shaft.
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Other dangerous parts
Check that safeguards 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;
- regularly checked and maintained in effective working order.
If guards are interlocked, for example if you need access several times each day to a dangerous part, check that:
- the machine cannot start before the guard is in position;
- opening the guard stops the machine or that part;
- the interlocking switch or valve is sufficiently robust for the job, and the way it works makes it difficult for someone to defeat.