Self propelled vegetable harvesting/packing rigs

SIM 01/2002/09


This SIM draws the attention of inspectors to safety issues and control measures for driverless vegetable harvesting/packing rigs used in the harvesting of fresh produce such as cabbages and cauliflower.


Driverless vegetable harvesting rigs generally consist of a boom type conveying system attached to an agricultural tractor with a trailed packing unit towed behind it.  While harvesting, the tractor forward speed is very low (ie creep speed). As the machine progresses through the field it has to be sufficiently slow to allow workers time to harvest the crop and then to place the harvested item on to the conveyor system that transports the produce to the trailed packing unit. Historically, the operation of these machines often involved the tractor driver setting the machine in motion and then vacating the driving position (ie dismounting from the tractor cab).  
Once the tractor was set in motion it was effectively "driverless" and operators were required to remount the moving tractor to stop it or to perform other functions such as to change direction etc.

Two companies (Vegetable Harvesting Systems and Keith Collingwood Ltd) are known to supply harvesting rigs/conversion systems to allow control of tractors, at creep speeds, from positions other than the usual driving position. Other manufacturers may exist and users may also attempt to modify their own machines.  The Agriculture Waste and Recycling Sector (The Sector) has drawn up the guidelines below setting out reasonably practicable control measures to reduce the main risks associated with driverless operation.


Inspectors may  refer to the information below when considering whether the risks have been adequately addressed by users or manufacturers of these machines to ensure safe operation.

In situations where manufacturers or users claim compliance with the requirements below is not reasonable practicable, local Specialist Group (SG) assistance should be sought, together with liaison with the Sector to establish an acceptable alternative.

In cases where more novel approaches are being considered/used (eg remote/radio control) advice should be sought from the Sector.  In such situations it is essential that a positive signal from the control device is required to keep the machine running (ie signal failure results in machine shut down).


People at risk from the operation of driverless vegetable harvesting rigs include:

These risks need to be considered by manufacturers and by users. 

The Sector considers the following  to be the basic requirements of the control system to ensure the safety of persons involved in operating these rigs and to satisfy the relevant essential health and safety requirements of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 and should be addressed by manufacturers/users:

Issues to be addressed by manufacturers and users:

Additional issues to be addressed by the user:

Further references


For further advice please contact Agriculture and Food Sector – Safety team, Nottingham.

Updated 2022-08-16