Brussels backs tractor hours limit


9 October 2001



Brussels backs tractor hours limit

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor


PLANS to limit the amount of time farm workers can spend on their tractors to just two or three hours a day have moved a step closer.


MEPs at an Employment and Social Affairs committee meeting in Brussels voted in favour of the measure on Tuesday (9 October).


The legislation is intended to limit the exposure of workers to vibrations from machinery to protect them from the risk of ill health.


But it has drawn widespread condemnation from industry leaders.


“These proposals are totally impractical,” said Michael Paske, vice-president of the National Farmers Union of England and Wales.


“Farmers would have to consider employing extra staff simply to bring in their harvests, which is clearly unworkable.”


This would result in huge additional cost, added Mr Paske.


An attempt to soften up the legislation was made by Conservative MEP Philip Bushill-Matthews.


“Currently there is no scientific evidence to link whole-body vibration to back pain,” he said.


But his amendment to the draft legislation was thrown out by a majority of MEPs who voted to go for even tighter limits on exposure to vibrations.


Mr Bushell-Matthews said he suspected the agenda was being pushed by the trade unions, which believe it would be good for job creation.


“It is only spuriously to do with health and safety,” he said.


The draft legislation now moves on to the full European Parliament in two weeks time, which is expected to ratify the decision.


If a common position is then reached between the parliament and the council, farmers would have seven years to comply with the new law.


The NFU is urging farmers and their representatives throughout the European Union to lobby their MEPs against the legislation.

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