Staying safe during sugar beet drilling

14 April 2023

An image of sugar beet drilling on a farm

Photograph: Gary Naylor Photography

With the drilling period for the 2023 sugar beet crop now underway, NFU Sugar reminds growers to keep safety at the forefront of their minds.

With the high number of vehicles and machinery, we all understand the hazards associated with the farming industry.

Agriculture has a workplace injury rate almost four times higher than the UK all-industry average, accounting for around 19% of the reported fatal injuries each year.

Safety must come first

NFU Sugar Board vice-chair Simon Smith emphasised that “the safety of all involved in agriculture must come first”.

“I urge you to consider how your actions today may influence the safety of you and others later in the season during the sugar beet campaign,” he said.

As we enter the drilling period it’s important to keep safety at the forefront of our minds and think about some of the simple steps we can take to reduce injuries, and ultimately save lives.

Look Out, Look Up!

Overhead powerlines are a constant hazard in agriculture. The UK Power Networks “Look Out, Look Up!” campaign reminds those working on farm to be aware of all overhead powerlines and maintain safe minimum working distances from them at all times.

Be prepared

It is vital to know where any powerlines are in relation to your fields ahead of starting any drilling. You should also be aware of any sagging lines and their variable height in relation to machinery.

With this information in mind, it is important to plan clamping sites before drilling. A lack of planning at this stage can lead to putting yourself and others in danger when it comes to harvest.

Keeping everyone safe

NFU Sugar Board vice-chair, Simon Smith, provides an insight into the key things to think about to keep everyone safe throughout the season.

His top tips are:

  • Build a good relationship with local electricity companies, which could include a site visit around the farm to identify possible hazards.
  • Carry out risk assessments on overhead power lines on land ahead of starting drilling and review them before harvest.
  • Check your insurance for health and safety requirements.
  • Ahead of harvest, undertake a full safety briefing with staff and contractors.
  • Ensure all farm staff take the LANTRA health and safety online module, subsidised to £20 + VAT if you are an NFU member. You can find out more on NFUonline, and non-members can register via LANTRA's page.
  • Check the height of power lines (which can sag over time) in relation to machinery.
  • Ensure machine cabs are kitted out with emergency contact numbers, including the distribution network operator (DNO), and fire extinguishers.
  • If you have power lines running across the field, try to drill crops 'with' the lines, so that when harvest comes you are lifting away from, rather than underneath, them.
  • Work on crop areas around telegraph polls/pylons during the day (rather than at night when visibility is worse).
Simon Smith on farm December 2018
"The safety of all involved in agriculture must come first."

NFU Sugar Board vice-chair, Simon Smith

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