Buying second-hand machinery

When buying tractors and other second-hand machines, check:

  • they are safe to use and comply with legal requirements such as PUWER (see section below).
  • the operator's manual is provided, or that other relevant  information can be obtained (for example, from the original manufacturer or sites on the internet);
  • that any missing or damaged guards and other safety devices can be replaced or repaired before using the machine.

When you buy or hire machines the law requires the supplier to provide necessary safeguards. The supplier may be a manufacturer, dealer, trader, auctioneer or private seller.

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)

PUWER place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over work equipment. PUWER also places responsibilities on businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, whether owned by them or not. PUWER requires that equipment provided for use at work is:

  • suitable for the intended use
  • safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure it is correctly installed and does not subsequently deteriorate
  • used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training
  • accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, such as protective devices and controls. These will normally include emergency stop devices, adequate means of isolation from sources of energy, clearly visible markings and warning devices
  • used in accordance with specific requirements, eg for mobile work equipment and power presses

To help you comply with PUWER, make sure you buy safe work equipment and machinery.

Some work equipment is subject to other health and safety legislation in addition to PUWER. For example, lifting equipment must also meet the requirements of The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER), pressure equipment must meet the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations and personal protective equipment must meet the PPE Regulations

What law applies to the sale of second-hand work equipment?

Section 6 of the Health and Safety at Work Act requires all products supplied for use at work - whether new or second-hand - to be safe, so far as reasonably practicable. This requirement includes the provision of instructions for the safe use of the equipment.

Machinery and other work equipment may be traded in a number of ways from dealerships through to auctions, the internet and classified adverts in local papers.  Any second hand items sold for use at work will fall within scope of section 6, and the seller will have a legal duty to ensure that the equipment, as supplied, is safe for use.

Section 6 also covers the sale of second-hand plant and machinery at auctions, including farm sales.  Both auctioneers and sellers can have legal duties, but the extent of each party's responsibility will vary with the contract or type of auction taking place.   The overall duty to supply a machine safe for use at work must therefore be accepted as a shared responsibility.  See Resources for more information about auctions.

Private sales

If a person or business sells work equipment to another person (eg farmer to farmer) then Section 6 will apply and the seller will have to ensure that the equipment he sells is safe for work.

The addition of "sold as seen" on an item of work equipment, on an invoice, advert or other paperwork, does not take away these legal duties imposed on the seller, and the item will need to be made safe prior to sale.

Trading-in (part-exchange) equipment

Dealers often take in equipment on a part-exchange basis, or they buy in equipment for resale.  In such circumstances, the purchaser is not buying in the equipment to use at work, and the seller will not have legal duties as it will not fall within scope of Section 6.  However if the dealer is planning to sell the equipment for use at work, then Section 6 will apply and the dealer will need to ensure any defects are put right prior to sale.

What do I need to know about buying second-hand equipment?

Buyers should satisfy themselves that any second-hand article purchased for use at work is safe for use.  They should be supplied with adequate information about the intended use of the equipment and with all complex machines, such as tractors, telescopic handlers and potato harvesters, this will involve obtaining the operator's handbook.

What to look for: a checklist to help buyers and sellers identify some common defects found on agricultural machines.

  • missing or defective guards for dangerous parts such as cutters, chopping mechanisms, belts, pulleys, chains, sprockets, and rotating shafts. 
  • missing or defective stand-off guards for pick-ups, tines or blades
  • poorly maintained or unsuitable guard fastenings particularly those that cover power transmission parts such as PTO shafts;
  • other safety devices defeated or not working including emergency stops
  • inadequate or defective brakes including parking brakes
  • controls not clearly identified or marked to indicate their function
  • no safe means of access provided to the operators position
  • warning signs, decals, and other instructions hard to read or in foreign languages.

Health and safety concerns on specific items of agricultural machinery include:

  • tractors with missing/damaged cabs or lacking roll over protective structures (ROPS);
  • potato harvesters with inadequately guarded haulm and cleaning rollers;
  • power harrows with missing/damaged or inadequate stand-off guards.
  • sprayers not fitted with chemical induction systems, emergency clean water containers and/or protective clothing lockers.

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