Tractor Safety in Spotlight as Unite Calls for Tougher Regulation
Unite have called for urgent government action to improve safety in the agricultural sector, currently Britain’s most dangerous industry. Acting National Officer for Agriculture Joe Clarke said: “Farm safety will not be significantly improved until there is a dramatic overhaul of agricultural safety laws”, the supporting press release called for the introduction of a tractor MOT, stricter driver controls and a more pro-active HSE inspection programme.
Last year there were 27 deaths in agriculture, 20 per cent of the total fatality figure, despite the industry employing just one per cent of the UK’s workforce. However the fatality figures do not include road traffic accidents; in the last five years there have been 122 fatal road traffic accidents involving agricultural vehicles, which included 14 drivers or passengers of said vehicles. In April 2018 the HSE brought G W Topham to court where they received a £400K fine plus costs following the death of a teenage seasonal worker when his tractor went out of control and struck a bridge on the A1 at Alconbury.
An HSE investigation found that the trailer had defective brakes, as its drum type brakes had not been correctly adjusted, rendering them ineffective. The tractor’s brakes were also insufficient to stop the tractor and trailer at speed. Daily brake tests involved conducting an emergency stop in the farmyard in conditions which did not simulate real use. Details of any necessary repairs were recorded on a white board which was wiped clean once they had been completed, leaving no record of vehicle maintenance. Judge Stuart Bridge commented: “It is quite clear to me there was under-investment in the vehicle maintenance regime.”
HSE Inspector Roxanne Barker said after the trial that poor maintenance is a common problem with farm vehicles used for seasonal work: “Many trailers are only used at harvest time and therefore this failure to maintain is likely to be widespread across the industry.” She reminded farmers to adequately maintain all work equipment, including that which is “not in mainstream use”.
SG World offer a range of pre-use safety inspections for a diverse range of equipment including tractors and other agricultural machinery, supporting a proactive approach to farm safety.