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Harvest – We’re off!  The harvest is upon us once again and a little earlier than usual, perhaps by two weeks in some counties, and the combines roll out to tackle the first winter barley crops of the season on the lighter land.

There are many issues to take on board when planning harvest activity and most should have been completed by the time the first fields are cut. However, that’s all very well said and done when on-going issues inevitably confound the best laid plans and it is sometimes useful to have a checklist on the more obscure and, some would say, mundane details such as insurance!

This year is drier and hotter than most and here are a few tips that can help in avoiding trouble.

Fire. Remove the dust and detritus from the combine and also from the balers before, after and during the operation. Combine and large baler fires in particular are increasingly common and in many cases avoidable. Don’t just carry a fire extinguisher in the combine, but have one in each tractor cab and farm pick up.  Reviewing these matters with seasonal harvest staff is imperative. The grain drying equipment within the sheds should have been maintained and again be dust free with the electrics and motors checked. Damp conditions, which I am sure will also be experienced, play havoc with blocking augers, which can again cause combustible situations.

Insurance check – Are your combinable crop and straw sums insured adequate to cover the increased quantities and values in the field, in store and being hauled between the two? Insurers will be keen to know where the straw is located and there may be limits on the amount of straw you can store in any one location. Have you extended your insurance to cover hire costs following a fire, thus enabling you to continue without interruption and with the reassurance of knowing that hire charges for machinery and alternative storage/drying are covered?

Staff. Check that temporary staff are well versed in the safety management of the farm and spend time running through emergency scenarios. (Give them emergency numbers to put in their phones). Talk to experienced staff about what went wrong and what worked in previous harvests. Also check that the new seasonal staff are old enough to drive certain machines and combinations as strict weight limits apply – I have a list, and its not easy to follow!

Insurance check – Have you informed your insurer about hiring extra staff – you may be covered automatically, but it’s good to check, just in case employers liability cover was lapsed for any reason. Is there a group personal accident scheme in place to cover employees following accidents and which enables you to employ temporary staff in the knowledge that the insurers will pay for the additional costs.

This advice is not intended to be exhaustive, but if you would find a more comprehensive check list useful, you are welcome to contact Martin Wright on 01793 847333 in our Swindon office or