Farmers urged to be aware of legal requirements for farm machinery inspections

F&M Group Machinery InspectionFarmers are being urged to ensure they are meeting their legal requirements for inspection of agricultural equipment, to reduce the risk of accidents and possible criminal proceedings.

Farming has one of the highest fatal injury statistics of any industry in the UK, with figures suggesting almost one person a week, over the last ten years, has been killed as a direct result of agricultural work. Certainly, the recent troubling stories of serious injury and fatalities on farm and involving farm machinery, should serve as a cautionary note to farm owners and operators.

However much experience an employer and operator may have, accidents can still happen and specifically those relating to machinery failure. Implementation of engineering inspections by qualified agricultural inspection engineers can certainly help reduce the risks.

“Many farmers believe it is not a legal requirement for machinery inspections, whereas for example in the construction industry operators simply will not be permitted on site without the relevant certification and documents,” states Nigel Wellings, of independent farm insurance broker Farmers & Mercantile (F&M).

Compliance with PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) and LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998) standards on lifting equipment is a requirement of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Not only will a qualified inspection ensure the farmer meets the legal requirements, but it also reduces potential for accidents. A real life and tragic, yet avoidable, accident involving a safe load indicator failure demonstrates this most tangibly.

Had an inspection been performed on the telehandler, it would have highlighted three key faults. The safe load indicator was not functioning, the load chart in the cab was unreadable and the extension markers on the boom were missing.

Sadly, the lethal combination of unchecked equipment resulted in an innocent lorry driver being left permanently disabled and the farmer incurring a £20,000 fine plus £1891 court costs. Following the changes to personal injury law, with a new law passed back in March 2017 which is set to see lump sum awards dramatically increase, a similar incident could see a significantly higher fine.

TelehandlerThe law change, which has been applied retrospectively to current claims, as well as new incidents, could lead to significant increases in court awards, so it is not just prudent but essential to take all precautions to limit exposure to risk.

If a vehicle requiring an inspection certificate is involved in an accident or causes injury, courts will take into account the fact that the machine held a valid certificate, and that could mean the difference between having a criminal record and fine, or not.

F&M’s engineering division provides inspections designed not only to identify performance compromising issues with the potential to become dangerous, but also to provide each machine with a comprehensive service history.

If a farmer decides for instance to upgrade a telehandler, the engineering certificates will be evidence that the machine has been well maintained and that it is in good, safe working order.

From an insurance perspective if a machine is stolen or involved in an accident, the reports produced will provide evidence as to its general condition, operating hours and any advisory issues that have been acted upon, and will help therefore to establish its true value. F&M hold inspection reports electronically, meaning they are available whenever and wherever required.

Taking precautions to minimise risk, while at the same time having valid certification in place to demonstrate a machine’s maintenance record, is a simple and yet ultimately highly effective means of improving farm efficiency.

Article first published in the Anglia Farmer.