A farmer borrowed a telescopic materials handler from a neighbouring farm to assist with baling on his own farm and was involved in a fatal accident. The vehicle brakes had recently been serviced - but one of the brake pipes had been left unconnected. Whilst using the machine he had commented on the poor response of the brakes and had to stop to put in some brake fluid. As he drove down a slight hill back to the neighbouring farm the brakes failed and the vehicle started to runaway. He decided to jump from the materials handler but struck his head as he fell.
Two partners in the farming business were prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for failing to ensure that the braking system was adequately maintained to ensure the safety of the driver of the vehicle and of other people. They were fined a total of £8,000 plus costs of £1,800.
Sadly this accident is thought to have contributed to the suicide of a partner in the farming business who had lent out the vehicle, adding still further to the tragic consequences surrounding this incident.
Before using any agricultural vehicle on the farm you MUST ensure that all safety critical components (such as brakes and steering) are in efficient working order and well maintained. Regular preventative maintenance for vehicles will help stop such accidents.
Further guidance is contained in HSE leaflet INDG279 ' Fatal Traction' - available from HSE Books. Advice can also be found in the recently published NFU code of practice.