Farm company finds inventive solution to machine safety pitfall

East Anglian salad and vegetable grower G's Fresh has overcome a common issue preventing farm machin

East Anglian salad and vegetable grower G's Fresh has overcome a common issue preventing farm machine operators from following Safe Stop guidelines. Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Farmers have been urged to follow “Safe Stop” procedures to prevent machinery accidents during the busy harvest season – with one East Anglian firm finding an inventive solution to a common obstacle.

The Safe Stop procedure aims to reduce the risk of farmers, their families or their colleagues being killed because they are run over by farm vehicles or pulled into machinery after the driver has left the cab with the engine running.

The simple safety solution requires machinery operators to ensure the hand brake is engaged, the controls are in neutral, the engine is switched off and the keys removed before they leave the cab.

But farmers say the procedure is not always practicable, with one common complaint being that GPS systems are lost when the engine is turned off even for a short period of time, wasting valuable time as the system loads up again.

One company that has addressed this issue is Fenland salad and vegetable grower G’s Fresh, based at Barway near Ely, which employs 1,500 full-time staff plus 2,500 seasonal staff at peak periods.

John Boyle, head of health, safety, risk and CI at G’s, said: “We take safety seriously for everyone involved in our business.

“We recognised that run-over accidents could be prevented altogether if the Safe Stop procedure is followed every time. It is a simple and effective way to remove the risk from vehicle run-overs.

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“We also recognised that, in certain circumstances, it is not always possible to apply Safe Stop. That didn’t mean we should abandon Safe Stop altogether, as health and safety is all about understanding and effective control.

“We made a list of the equipment or task that was preventing full application of Safe Stop and, with team involvement we then looked at effective measures that could be put into place, using a hierarchy to control and manage risk.

“One issue addressed was the common complaint that Safe Stop cannot be applied because it causes the GPS to switch off, leading to delays.

“After investigating why this happened, the solution we hit on was to provide auxiliary power to GPS and other systems, either by wiring direct to the battery or by adding an additional rechargeable battery.

“There was a little cost to this, and it took a little time, but we felt that the cost in time and money was well worth the investment to remove the risk to our workers of a vehicle run-over. In some cases, this prevented the GPS resetting, improving efficiency.

“Safe Stop is a simple and effective way to remove risk of run-over altogether. But where it is not possible, understand where and why and use a hierarchy to control and manage the risk effectively.”