Five ways to reduce the risk of farm fires caused by hot machinery
Technical Leader Claire Longman advises farmers on five steps they can take to reduce the risk of fires caused by hot farm machinery.
With agricultural machinery being used intensively for harvesting and baling, in hot and dry conditions, summer is the peak time for fire-related incidents. Sadly, they can have a devastating effect, causing thousands of pounds’ worth of damage, as well as posing a threat to people and livestock.
Farm machinery can become very hot during and after use and can pose a significant fire risk, particularly if it is stored near flammable materials.
Here are five steps we advise farmers to take to reduce the risk:
Keep farm machinery clean and free of debris
Agricultural machinery is becoming more complex, which means potentially flammable materials, such as grass and straw, can become stuck in parts of the machine that are not obviously visible.
That is why we advise farmers to keep checking and cleaning harvesting machinery to ensure spaces under the cab and around motors are free from oil, dust, grease, straw and hay - particularly during and after long days out in the fields.
Ensure machinery is well maintained
There are many tasks to deal with on a daily basis when running a farm, especially during harvesting. However, mechanical defects are another potential cause of fires, so we urge farmers to regularly service farm vehicles and machinery and check for spark risks. Installing a vehicle-mounted fire extinguisher provides you with a way to immediately respond to fires while the vehicle is in use.
Let machinery cool before storing
We advise farmers to leave hot machinery outside to completely cool down before moving it indoors. If the machinery is still warm when it is moved into a shed or barn, there is a risk of residual heat rising and catching with flammable materials inside or near to the machinery.
Check storage areas for flammable materials
Buildings used for storing machinery should be checked carefully for potentially flammable items. Petrol, diesel, fuels and chemicals must be stored separately and secured in clearly labelled and approved containers. The area around the machinery should also be kept clear of rubbish, oily rags, firewood and other potential fuel sources, such as straw bales.
Assess the risk
The key to preventing accidents is to continually assess risks and take reasonable steps to reduce them, such as keeping fire extinguishers in farm buildings and near or mounted on machinery.
Farm owners must, by law, carry out a fire risk assessment of their farm buildings under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Those with five or more employees must record the findings or risk facing a fine or prison sentence and potentially the loss of the business.
Whether employed or working on a casual basis, farm workers should be familiar with the farm owner’s written health and safety policy. Training may need to be offered, to ensure they are able to work as safely as possible.
We have produced a Farm Fire Safety Guide to help you identify and manage fire risks on your farm. You can access this guide in the online Cornish Mutual Member Area, or by requesting a copy from your local Field Insurance Advisor.
Farmers should also familiarise themselves with the HSE’s advice on thermal hazards and farm machinery.
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