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Down on the Farm part 2 – Darkest Lincolnshire

Previously in this thread …

Sam says “Yes we can”, and I set off for darkest Lincolnshire and a group of farmers who want some training in pyrotechnic bird scaring because “there have been a few incidents”!

Ok so the first training session went well, once I’d found the farm, a big commercial growing site as it turned out with a training Portacabin big enough to accommodate around a dozen farmers and game keepers from several different businesses.

Everyone was quite attentive, we identified a few issues, for example none of them had ever read, or were even aware that there were, instructions for use of the banger ropes in the box!  So we went outside to do a bit of practical – good job I’d put the wellies in, that Lincolnshire mud is quite deep and sticky, and discovered that the Jorge rockets are pretty good, and one of the problems with banger ropes is that you can’t tell very easily if they are alight!

OK so that was useful, and one of the things with the training sessions is that actually running them with an audience points up areas that can be changed, improved or even dropped, and thus modified we’re ready for the second session with another group and venue a week later.

Now things weren’t looking good. There’d been snow overnight, in fact about five millimetres so of course all the way from Ravenshead to the Nottinghamshire / Lincolnshire border (where it cleared up) we crawled along whilst the morning commuters failed to cope with the fact that the road was a vaguely white colour. Great, only another hour plus to go!

Eventually I managed to break away from the traffic and out into what struck me as a very Dutch looking landscape to the North East of Boston, and at least this venue had thought to put out signs for the training session.

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Another group of around a dozen, and this was clearly the hard core at the heart of the “incidents”!

There were various knowing nods and sideways glances at various individuals as I went through the training, along with one poor chap who was actually an employer and was trying to write Risk Assessments and get his employees to take safety seriously.

So what were the sorts of things that were causing issues? Well broadly speaking it was a lack of appreciation of how the devices were designed to work, and the potential consequences of not using them as the manufacturer intended, so nothing fundamental then!

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One group had a particular classic. They work for a relatively large farming operation, and the safety team were concerned that they were transporting pyrotechnic rockets in their vehicles. The solution was obvious, provide a solid container in the back of the vehicle for the safe transport of these rockets. So a number of containers were purchased and installed, the only problem being that the rockets with their sticks were too long to fit in! Simple said the safety team, cut the sticks down! I was able to reassure the workers that they were quite correct to refuse to use these containers on the basis that they weren’t fit for purpose!

Another issue was the difficulty of deploying devices in the field.

To start with there was the person who didn’t realise the need for launch tubes, when you could simply stick the rocket in the ground, yes quite often they didn’t take off or flew off in unpredictable directions, but that was poor manufacture wasn’t it?

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The other deployment issue was with the banger ropes. Now these are an interesting, if outwardly simple device.  In essence a relatively thick piece of rope about a metre long, with a series of bangers attached at intervals. The designed method of operation is to attach to a stout pole with the bottom of the rope six foot above the ground. The rope then burns slowly till the first banger is reached, lights a very short bit of Chinese fuse at the same time burning through the attachment to the man rope so that the banger should actually explode in the air as it falls to the ground. But this actually requires the operator to install posts to hang the rope from, and apparently that’s a problem!

Then there were several people who said that the biggest problem was actually lighting devices in the field, and you could certainly feel their point as the Siberian winds blew across the flat fields out the back of the training room, but sitting in the Transit cab to light devices out of the wind, probably isn’t the best idea, indeed one person actually admitted to having had something go off in the vehicle and being injured. Fortunately they agreed that the miraculous inventions of Portfires and /or piezo ignition blow torches could solve this problem.

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Finally there was the closet pyrotechnican, or should that be pyromaniac, now the first group had been relatively disinterested in practical work, this second group on the other hand wanted to have a go, it was at this point as I was handing out bits of piped match that it became obvious that there were certain members of the group who’s reputation preceded them!

Nevertheless no farmers were injured during training and they all went away with a new insight into pyrotechnics, including one older chap who came up afterwards to say that he used to load his own shotgun cartridges, but had found the presentation useful.

So Sam was right, yes we can provide training on the use of pyrotechnic bird scarers, and there are probably lessons to be learnt from the way that other industries operate not just in terms of addressing particular issues, but also in the fact that it always pays to periodically review what you are doing and whether there are other peoples or even other industries best practices that you could benefit from.

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