Safety precautions could have prevented the accidental death of a farmer crushed to death after his dog hit a lever in his tractor cab, a sheriff has ruled.

Harry Emslie, 67, died after the bucket loader of his tractor pinned him against the wall of a barn at his farm at Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, in 2008.

His body was discovered later by his daughter and her partner. The collie-type dog was still in the vehicle.

Sheriff William Summers said the dog in the cab had knocked the drive lever on the steering column of running the tractor while Mr Emslie, a champion cattle breeder and show judge, was in front of it.

He had been working on his own in the barn at the farm, and using the bucket of the vehicle to pick up some animal feed lying next to the barn wall.

David Gibbs, a lawyer representing the family, said during the fatal accident inquiry at Peterhead Sheriff Court: “The fact the deceased’s dog appears to have been in the cab being the only explanation for the lever being pushed forward again is of no great solace to the deceased’s family.”

Sheriff Summers said the tractor moved forward so quickly that Mr Emslie had not time to move out of the way.

The bucket pinned Mr Emslie against the barn wall by the abdomen, causing “catastrophic injuries”.

In his written determination, Sherriff Summers said: “If Mr Emslie had done any of parking the vehicle parallel to the wall rather than perpendicular to it, switching the engine off, engaging neutral gear, engaging the handbrake or taking the dog out of the cab, this accident would not have occurred.”