Clearing blockages


A nineteen year old man was manually feeding baled straw into a stationary harvester. When the power take off (PTO) was first switched on, the drive belts for the pick-up reel slipped resulting in no pick-up. The power was switched off but he failed to realise that the chopping mechanism was powered directly from the PTO. He went round to the back of the machine to check whether there was a blockage and his hand came into contact with the blade, which was still running down. He fractured and lacerated two fingers. The PTO shaft was unguarded at the time of the accident. A pitch fork had not been provided to feed material into the header unit, nor had a metal hook or similar device been provided for clearing blockages. Although he had switched off the tractor engine before dealing with blockage, the young man was un-aware of chopper rundown time. He had received no instruction or training on how to do the job, and had never been supervised.


All three partners in the farming partnership were prosecuted under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to implement a safe system of work, for inadequate guarding and for failing to provide adequate instructions and training. They were also prosecuted under the Reporting of Injuries etc...... 1995 (RIDDOR) for failing to report the accident.

The partners were fined a total of £12,000 (£4,000 for each partner) plus a contribution of £562.80 (£187.60 each) towards the cost of bringing the prosecution.


Adequate instruction and training should be provided for all pieces of equipment used on the farm - this is particularly important for inexperienced operators. Dangerous parts of machinery such as PTO drive shafts must be guarded. A safe system of work for clearing blockages eg by using a toll to check for blockages rather than a hand should have been in place.