Training, supervision and failing to assess the risks to young persons


A farmer was prosecuted following an accident to a 16 year-old boy who had to have his leg amputated after he slipped while trying to climb onto a tractor that was being driven by the farmer's 14 year-old son.

The pair were power harrowing and the 16 year-old had dismounted from the tractor. As he climbed back onto the moving tractor he lost his footing and fell under the rear wheels of the tractor and was then run over by the harrow. His leg was so badly damaged that it had to be amputated below the knee.

The Health and Safety Commission's Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) "Preventing accidents to children in agriculture" makes it clear that the person permitting a young person to operate a tractor must ensure that no other young person is on the tractor.

In addition, it lists certain types of machines, which have a high level of risk and which young persons of compulsory school age (ie under 16 years of age) should not be permitted to use. This includes 'machines incorporating power-driven soil engaging parts' such as a power harrow.


The farmer was prosecuted under S3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for failing to prevent a young person driving a tractor from carrying another young person as a passenger, and for allowing a young person under school compulsory age to use a power harrow.

He pleaded guilty and was fined £5,000 plus £1,200 towards the cost of bringing the prosecution.


The ACOP restricts specific tasks and also requires that a risk assessment be undertaken which takes account of the individual capabilities of each young person, in terms of their health and safety, before they are allowed to undertake any form of task.

Both boys should not have been on the tractor together and there are no circumstances where it is acceptable for a 14 year-old to operate a tractor with an attached power harrow or similar power-driven machine.

Whilst young people over 13 years old are legally allowed to drive tractors once trained, they must be adequately instructed and closely supervised by an adult in any task that they undertake.

The ACOP can assist parents and employers in assessing and pointing out what they may be capable of and are permitted to do under the relevant legislation.