HSENI Safety Alert - Filling Fertiliser Sowers

Date published: 17 April 2023

Farm equipment, vehicles and machinery incidents are still the main cause of major injuries and deaths on our farms across Northern Ireland. Many of these tragic incidents can be avoided if a safe system of working is always used.


The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) and the Farm Safety Partnership is reminding farmers and contractors to take extra care when operating machinery and equipment on the farm but especially now throughout the summer months. 

Summer is the busiest season for farmers with machinery and equipment being used more frequently than at any other time of the year. Farmers are under pressure in many ways at this time whether it be cutting silage, putting out slurry, sowing fertiliser or turning hay. The large volume of work combined with additional pressures such as lack of resources, labour shortages, inclement weather and financial issues can lead to a situation where incidents are more likely to occur.

In recent years HSENI has investigated three machinery incidents which involved a very routine operation where fertiliser was being loaded into the hopper of a sower. In the three incidents one of the vehicles involved in the operation moved and tragically killed the farmer caught between one or the two machines.

HSENI is urging farmers to follow the Safety Essentials below when filling sowers:

  • Always ensure you are using the right equipment for the job.
  • Never enter the danger area between the two vehicles when cutting the fertiliser bag. If you have to cut the bag attach a knife to a long pole which will allow you to stand out of the danger area between the two vehicles.
  • Always ensure both machines are on firm level ground.
  • Always practice the safe stop procedure i.e. ensure the handbrake is fully engaged on both vehicles, controls are in neutral, engine is off and keys are taken out before loading the hopper.
  • To avoid the need to work in hazardous areas, if possible get the fertiliser delivered loose and load from a bucket/scoop directly into the hopper.
  • Ensure all machinery and equipment is maintained in good working order by a competent person; Never use a vehicle with defective brakes.
  • Where possible have two people carry out this task.
  • Ensure all implements are attached correctly and securely to the forks of the loading vehicle, never reuse bags unless specifically designed for multiple lifts.
  • It is advisable to have stop blocks/wheel chocks on stationary vehicles.

Please follow the link below for further information on agriculture safety:

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