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Written on 5th April 2022 by Kim Milan

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have reported that a farmer has been prosecuted and fined after a farm worker was pulled into the contra-rotating rollers of a potato harvester. The farm worker’s leg was pulled into the machine when he stepped onto the harvester’s rollers whilst he tried to unblock it. He suffered multiple injuries, including burns, severed nerves and fractures to his ankle and knee. 

The criminal court prosecution followed an investigation by HSE which found that the farmer had failed to use the safety procedure known as ‘safe stop’ to turn off the power and stop the rollers moving before the farm worker accessed them when trying to unblock the machine. The farmer pleaded guilty to breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, which are designed to protect workers from being injured by dangerous machinery. 

The HSE’s report of the incident focussed on the action taken by HSE against the farm owner or employer who failed in his responsibility to protect his worker from harm. Where an employee, worker or visitor suffers a serious injury as a result of poor safety procedures involving dangerous vehicles or machinery, they may be entitled to compensation. This applies even if their own actions partly caused the accident or they have been told they were partly to blame.

What is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)?

The Health and Safety Executive, often known as HSE, regulates and enforces health and safety (H&S) in the workplace. Their aim is to prevent death, injury and ill health caused by unsafe working conditions. They do this at national and industry level, through regulation, education, information, training, influencing and awareness campaigning. They also intervene when necessary to enforce health and safety standards within individual businesses.

What should the farmer have done to keep his worker safe around the machinery?

There are many laws and regulations that are designed to keep workers safe along with the general duty of care that employers owe to their employees. When someone asks us to help them claim compensation after an injury at work, we investigate the circumstances of their accident and then identify which of the many health and safety or H&S regulations have been breached.

In the case that was reported by HSE, the farmer pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1)(b) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, which requires employers to take effective measures to stop the movement of dangerous parts of machinery before any part of a person enters the danger zone.  The regulations list the measures which must be taken. These include providing guards, protection devices and equipment, enclosing every dangerous part or rotating stock-bar as far as it is practicable to do so, and providing information, instruction, training and supervision to protect the worker’s safety.

What is ‘safe stop’?

HSE found that the farmer had failed to use the ‘safe stop’ procedure. This is a safety procedure promoted by The Farm Safety Partnership's 'Safe Stop' Campaign. The Farm Safety Partnership is a collaboration of leading organisations within farming and agriculture that are committed to improving farm safety by promoting safe systems of work and raising awareness within all sectors of agriculture.

The campaign recognises that many machines used in farming and agriculture have dangerous moving parts, which can cause serious or fatal injuries. These machines include balers, harvesters, slurry tankers, straw choppers, harrows, feeder wagons and tractors.

The campaign, supported by HSE, promotes the importance of following the 'safe stop' safety procedure by taking four simple steps:

  • Engage handbrake;
  • Controls in neutral;
  • Switch off engine;
  • Remove key.

Following the successful prosecution of the farmer, an HSE’s inspector said:

 “Too often we see incidents like this, where maintenance is carried out on live machinery and the principles of ‘safe stop’ and safe maintenance are ignored. The agricultural industry accounts for around 1% of the workforce in Great Britain, yet it accounts for 20% of worker deaths. Many of these deaths are due to poor working practices while carrying out maintenance on machinery. In addition, many more workers are seriously injured each year due to unsafe working practices while working on machinery. Those undertaking maintenance work on agricultural machinery should ensure that the principles of ‘safe stop’ are followed to prevent people being put at risk of injury.”


Helping injured workers claim compensation after workplace injuries

Farms and other agricultural working environments can be dangerous places where injuries from accidents are often fatal or severe leading to lifelong impairment or disability. Specialist rehabilitation may be needed to give the injured person their best chance of recovery. Life-changing injuries can leave the injured person unable to walk, work, live independently or care for themselves. They may be unable to return to their former job or type of work,  adding financial worries to an already stressful situation.

When individuals or their family suffer sudden loss or a lifetime of disability as a result of a workplace accident, our experienced personal injury specialists can help by providing access to practical and early financial support.  Our team specialise in claims where the client’s injuries are complex and severe. We understand the rules and regulations which govern accidents on farms and other agricultural environments and are skilled at proving that our client’s injury was caused by their employer’s negligence. We have helped injured workers and their families rebuild their lives through rehabilitation and compensation for over 30 years.

If you have suffered severe injury or bereavement as a result of a workplace accident and would like to find out more about making a claim, you can talk to one of our specialist solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here.