South West insurance firm Cornish Mutual is issuing a warning to farmers as the hot weather causes an increase in farm machinery fires during intensive haymaking and harvesting work.
Each year thousands of farms experience machinery or building fires. July and August are the principle months when farm fires occur and the combination of hot machinery and dry conditions poses an especially high risk.
Cornish Mutual, which has over 24,000 Members and insures a high proportion of farms across the South West, has received 19 farm fire claims since 1 June mainly involving farm machinery and is advising farmers to:
Ensure all machinery is cleaned regularly to ensure belly pans and spaces around motors are free from oil, dust, grease, straw and hay.
Service farm machinery regularly to ensure it is free from mechanical defects that could start fires.
Store petrol, diesel, fuels and chemicals in clearly labelled approved containers. They should be stored separately and secured in locations away from other farm buildings.
Check storage areas for any ignition sources such as electrics, machinery and smoking. And keep areas clean of rubbish, oily rags, firewood and other fuel sources.
Cornish Mutual Member Daniel Philp, from Lancare agricultural contractors based in Looe, said: “This time of year tends to be when machinery fires can occur. We have a large harvesting fleet and it is something we are very aware of. You could say that we’ve been lucky not to have experienced any machinery fires, but we take all the right precautions, especially making sure that all hay, straw and dust is blown off machinery at the end of the day.”
Philip Wilson, Operations Team Leader for Cornish Mutual, said: “We are issuing this warning following a rise in claims for agricultural vehicle fires, since 1 June we have had 19 farm fire incidents. Fires on farms are all too common, and can lead to significant financial losses and huge disruption to businesses.
“Farmers are busy in the fields right now with hot machinery working hard to make the most of the good weather and then often being stored indoors at night. With lots of dry material and dust about it is very important to make sure equipment is clean and well serviced to minimise the risks of fire breaking out.”
Farm fires can be enormously destructive to regional businesses. The majority of building fires that Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service attend every year are destroyed, often with the loss of large amounts of stock, straw, hay, farm machinery, chemicals and even livestock.
A safety advice leaflet, produced jointly by Cornish Mutual and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, gives advice on how to carry out a fire risk assessment of farm buildings – something farmers must do by law now or they may face a penalty
This involves identifying hazards, evaluating risks, and preparing an emergency plan, but there are many other preventative steps that farmers can take to reduce the risk of fire. It is available at: http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/community-and-living/cornwall-fire-and-rescue-service-homepage/business-fire-safety/leaflets-and-guides/farm-fire-safety/
In 2012, the Truro-based firm became the first mutual insurance company in the UK to hold Chartered Insurer status, one of 24 insurers in the country to achieve this highest level of recognition from the Chartered Insurance institute. It is the only general insurer based in the South West offering insurance to farms, businesses and individuals.