A retired casual worker was injured when his arm was drawn into a potato harvester. The accident happened on the worker’s second day at work on the machine. At the end of the day he reached across a processing section of the machine that should have been guarded to retrieve the last remaining potatoes from the machine as it was running clear. His arm was drawn up to the elbow in an in-running nip breaking his fingers and forearm bones, removing muscle from the top of his forearm. The worker was airlifted to hospital.
The farmer was prosecuted under regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) for failing to take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of the machine. He pleaded guilty and was fined £5,000 plus prosecution costs of £1,561.
This accident was entirely preventable. The farmer had failed to guard dangerous parts on the secondhand machine that had been brought back into use after standing idle for a number of years. Unguarded or inadequately guarded machines continue to be a source of numerous serious accidents to adults (and children) on farms. All machines must be effectively guarded to prevent any contact with the dangerous parts.
Under PUWER, employers have to ensure that equipment for use at work is effectively guarded BEFORE being used. A simple system for checking over equipment before use would have identified a missing guard.