Farmer fined after worker pulled into potato harvester

A farmer has been fined after a worker became entangled in a potato harvester and suffered multiple injuries.

The worker was unblocking the harvester at a farm in Kent when he stepped down on to its contra-rotating rollers and was pulled leg first into the machine.

He was trapped up to his knee and suffered burns to the leg, a pulled hamstring, torn calf, broken nerves and hairline fractures to the knee and ankle.

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The incident happened during potato harvesting in August 2020, Folkestone Magistrates’ Court heard.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the farmer had failed to implement a “safe stop procedure” to isolate power and stop the movement of the rollers before the worker accessed them.

Alan Down, of Main Road, Sellindge, Ashford, Kent pleaded guilty to breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. He was fined £4,992 plus £5,805 costs.

‘Safe stop’ ignored

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Sam Brown said: “Too often we see incidents like this, where maintenance is carried out on live machinery and the principles of ‘safe stop’ and safe maintenance are ignored.

“Those undertaking maintenance work on agricultural machinery should ensure that the principles are followed to prevent people being put at risk of injury.”

The HSE said the agricultural industry accounts for around 1% of the workforce in Great Britain, yet it accounts for 20% of worker deaths.

Many of these deaths are due to poor working practices while carrying out maintenance on machinery. In addition, many more workers are seriously injured each year due to unsafe working practices while working on machinery.