8 December 2000

Sprayer boom 4m rule still clouded by wording

By Andy Moore

A EUROPEAN standard concerning safe boom folding/unfolding heights on sprayers could take another two years to become fully clear, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

The BSEN907 standard, which was published in 1997 to ban the use of sprayers fitted with booms which fold or unfold over 4m, is set to be reviewed following confusion from sprayer manufacturers over its wording.

Section 4.4.2 of the standard states that: "When booms are folded/unfolded in accordance with information in the instruction handbook, no part of the booms should normally exceed 4m from the ground."

Sprayer manufacturers and the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) believe the sections wording is misleading because it conflicts with wording in part 5.2.2 which states that: "For machines, for which the height of the booms can exceed 4m, a warning placed at the drivers position shall draw attention to the risk of unintentional contact with overhead power lines."

The AEAs director general Jake Vowles says: "Both sections of the standard are badly worded and ambiguous, leading manufacturers and employers to believe it is safe to sell and operate sprayers fitted with booms which fold or unfold over this limit."

Over the past few months there have been six cases where companies or individuals have been either prosecuted or investigated by the HSE following their misinterpretation of the standard.

Two leading UK sprayer manufacturers have been fined this year, following an HSE prosecution for selling a new sprayer which failed to comply with the height limit. Fines for breaching the standard can vary from £5000 to as much as £20,000, according to the HSE.

The regulations also apply to the sale of second-hand sprayers destined for further operation. This means the farmer, contractor or dealer is liable if he sells or operates an old sprayer with a boom which exceeds the height limitations.

The options, says the HSE, are either to scrap the sprayer or modify/replace the boom with one which does not breach the European standard.

A third option is to sell the unmodified sprayer to a dealer, which then has a choice to convert or sell the sprayer into certain European countries where the standard does not apply.

"Farmers or contractors currently operating sprayers fitted with booms which do not comply to the safety height, need to assess the risks imposed by the presence of power lines on their land," says Rick Brunt of the HSE.

"For those operating sprayers near power lines, the HSE will discuss what safety measures are available to eliminate any risk. The HSE may recommend modifying or scrapping the sprayer – or hiring in a new machine or contractor."

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