12 June 1998

Harrow safety under scrutiny

A FORMAL objection has been lodged to a new European standard which, the government believes, could lower the safety protection level for power harrows and lead to increased risks to agricultural workers.

According to the Health and Safety Executive the standard does not satisfy certain essential health and safety requirements of the EU machinery directive, in particular those dealing with guarding of machinery and positioning the adjustment handle.

Any new power harrows built to the new EU standard, EN 708, will lower safety protection levels in the UK, the HSE says. It adds that up to the mid-1980s there was a history of serious accidents in the UK caused by power harrows.

The problem was solved when British safety specialists insisted on more rigorous guarding specifications. The HSE fears that a move to the less rigorous EU standard will compromise safety and result in the accident record rising to its former level.