The NFU Mutual is advising farmers to take steps to avoid leaving mud on the road this autumn as wetter weather makes sugar beet, maize and late-cut silage harvesting tricky.
It reminds growers that mud deposited on the road by tractors can lead to farmers being prosecuted and held liable if other road users skid and have an accident.
Evita Van Gestel at NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Ltd said: “Autumn’s unpredictable weather makes harvesting and cultivation work a huge challenge for farmers. Having measures in place to prevent mud from getting onto roads – and contingency plans so the mud can be cleared from roads quickly – is the best approach.
“For large-scale activities such as sugar beet or maize harvesting, it may be necessary to have a wheel washer by field entrances and a mechanical road sweeper on stand-by, while for small farms a brush and shovel approach may be enough to clear up after one tractor.
“If mud is left on the roads, the law is clear: it’s the responsibility of the farmer to clean it up. Clear warning signs should be put up to warn other road users – but that doesn’t mean the mud can be left. It’s still the farmer’s responsibility to remove it as quickly as possible.”
To help farmers reduce the risk of mud being deposited on the road following harvesting or cultivation operations, the NFU Mutual has produced a series of guidelines.
- Do everything possible to prevent mud from being deposited on the road, including clearing mud from vehicles, as far as practicable, before going onto the road.
- Buy, or be prepared to hire in, machines to clean up mud left on the road.
- Keep to farm tracks and minor roads where possible.
- Keep to low speeds, especially when travelling short distances, to help retain mud on the vehicle.
- Keep a written record of your decisions whether to deploy signs and clean the road.
- If you recognise a risk of mud being left on the road, utilise ‘Slippery Road’ signs with a ‘Mud on Road’ subplate to alert drivers.
- Make sure signs are positioned to give maximum visibility and warning to road users, especially on approaches to sharp corners and blind summits.
- Clean the road surface as necessary during the working day and always at the end of the day.
- Assess the risks to working on the road in each location to make sure that the work can be done safely.
- Ensure that staff and equipment are available (including high-vis clothing for operatives working on the road) and suitable for soil and weather conditions.
- If staff are working on the road, utilise additional ‘Men at Work’ signs in each direction.
- If a contractor is used, ensure that prior agreement is reached on who is reponsible for mud on the road, including signage and clean-up.