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Contractor loses arm on an unguarded PTO shaft

Summary

A self-employed agricultural contractor lost his arm on an unguarded PTO shaft attached to a tractor and a semi-mounted water tanker.

The contractor had been instructed to carry out several tasks including the emptying of an underground tank full of rain water prior to minor civil engineering work. However, during the process, another worker was not convinced that water was being extracted from the underground tank so he went to the rear of the tractor to check the discharge lever to the tanker was in the correct position. As he placed his hand over the exhaust outlet to feel for emissions, his clothing and high visibility tabard were caught on an exposed section of the rotating PTO shaft and torque limiter and his arm was ripped off.

Lack of maintenance and deficient guarding of the PTO shaft were major contributory factors. Replacing the damaged PTO guard with a new one would have prevented the accident.

Action

The active partner in the farming business was prosecuted under regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). The farmer pleaded guilty and was fined £4,000 plus £2,500 towards the cost of bringing the prosecution.

Advice

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 any missing or damaged guards.

2013-01-24