A 13 year old boy became entangled on an unguarded PTO shaft. He was one of two young people milling grain and shovelling it into bags. The farmer's son was looking for some string to tie the bags and as he approached the machine he somehow became entangled and wrapped around the PTO shaft. The other boy realised what had happened and leant into the tractor to disengage the PTO. The child's left hand was amputated and he subsequently lost his left lower leg (below the knee). He also received trunk and head injuries.
The farmer was prosecuted under under Section 3(2) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to ensure the health and safety of the two boys. He pleaded guilty. The Magistrates awarded a conditional discharged but no costs; the Chair of the Bench emphasised that the penalty did not reflect the severity of crime but rather took account of the family's very restricted means.
Unguarded or inadequately guarded PTO shafts are a source of numerous serious accidents to children (and adults) on farms. All PTO shafts must be fully guarded to prevent any contact with the rotating parts. Young persons helping on the farm must be given adequate instruction and training and be properly supervised at all times.
Under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) equipment for use should be adequately guarded BEFORE being used. A simple system for checking over equipment before use would have identified the missing guard allowing the problem to be rectified.