Tim Price, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, says:
"Most farmers have finished bringing in their barley crops and are harvesting wheat which put combines under more strain. This means it’s more important than ever to stop build-ups of chaff and dust which can lead to fires if parts of the combine overheat.
So far, good harvesting conditions are keeping the number of combine fires pretty low – certainly compared with 2013 when tinder-dry conditions led to over 112 fire claims, almost double the number dealt with in 2014.
NFU Mutual won’t have the full figures for claims from this harvest available for a few weeks – but we’re already dealing with four serious fire claims in East Anglia which could cost £100,000 apiece.
While we’ve had some rain in July and August, fields are currently pretty dry and there have been a number of field fires. We sometimes see more fires towards the end of harvest, when farmers are working mostly with wheat crops and both they and their machinery are getting weary after weeks of working long hours."
NFU Mutual has produced a safety checklist for farmers to help prevent combine fires and accidents during harvest.
- Regularly clean out dust and chaff from hot spots in combines and balers
- Switch off engines and ensure moving parts have stopped before clearing blockages or carrying out maintenance
- Always stop to investigate hot-running engines or bearings
- Put in place a system for keeping in contact with lone workers
- Keep mobile ‘phones on your person' - not left in a tractor or pick up cab
- Make sure drivers are aware of the locations and heights of power lines and check that your will safely pass under wires
- Make sure there is a fire extinguisher on the combine – and that it is regularly maintained.
- Instruct drivers to keep to safe speeds in the grain yard
- Check signs are in place to help lorry drivers go to the right place, and alert members of the public to any potential hazards
- Keep children away from working areas
- Clean dust regularly from grain dryers – and ensure that all staff running the drier are fully trained and know what to do if fire breaks out
- Ensure fire extinguishers are readily accessible
- Make sure ladders and platforms used for maintenance are in good condition and a safe system of work is in operation