Bale stacking / sheeting fatality

16 August 2016

As we are now well into harvest, we all need to be mindful of the recent warning from HSE following the death of a Devon farmer who is reported to have been killed when the top bale of a stack being sheeted fell on him on 26 July.

Moving or falling bales have been responsible for seven deaths (and many serious injuries) in agriculture over the last 10 years, according to HSE’s review of Fatal Injuries in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing in Great Britain 2015/16.  In January, a farmer/feed merchant was killed on Anglesey after a fall on a straw stack and other deaths and serious injuries have occurred, eg when bales have fallen while loading or unloading lorries or trailers.

Bale stacking is a skill that has to be learned and demands the application of knowledge and experience to do it safely. Anyone involved in handling bales should follow the guidance available.  This covers how to build safe stacks and where to build them; if the stack is to be covered, how to do so safely, and also how to manage the risk to children.  Making sure a stack remains safe goes beyond the initial build - conditions change and attention is needed to make sure the stack remains stable, especially once (and when) bales are being removed from the stack.

The safe working with bales in agriculture guidance on the HSE website includes specific guidance on handling and storing round and square bales, and covers building and de-stacking risks.  

Ireland’s Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has also produced guidance: Working safely with bales on the farm.This includes material in the HSA’s Code of Practice for Preventing Injury and Occupational Ill Health in Agriculture (pp38-39), which highlights the fact that falling  from  stacks  or  loads  of  bales  is  the  biggest  cause  of  bale-handling  injuries.  This type of incident can be prevented by building secure stacks and paying particular attention to binding stacks and loads.  Particular  care  is  also needed  when  removing  bales  from  stacks,  as  many  people,  when  trying  to  free jammed bales, fall from stacks or edges.