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September 22, 2009

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Farming- Don’t come a cropper in harvesting season

The death of a farm worker in Fife earlier this month has prompted the HSE to issue a reminder to farmers and contractors involved in potato harvesting at this time of year to take extra care around machinery.

The 34-year-old man was killed while apparently working on a potato harvester that was powered up. The HSE is also investigating an incident in which a Lincolnshire worker suffered severe cuts trying to clear a chopping mechanism, and another in which a Cambridgeshire farmer had his arm crushed when it was dragged into some cleaning rollers.

Said Tony Mitchell of HSE’s agriculture and food sector: “There have been three deaths involving potato harvesters in the past seven years and many more serious incidents besides. It is essential that proper systems are in place for cleaning machinery, fixing it, or removing blockages. It must be switched off before any work is attempted on it.”

Mitchell concluded: “We understand that farmers are under immense time pressures, with the weather often another obstacle to contend with, but this should not mean they take short cuts with safety, risking a lifetime of disability or death.”

In the past five years, 82 workers suffered fatal injuries during the four-month harvest period between July and October, which represents almost half of all deaths in agriculture since 2004/05.

The HSE has published an information sheet ‘Safe use of potato harvesters’, which is available to download by clicking here. In addition, a safe potato handling DVD has been produced by the Potato Council, with support from the HSE, the National Farmers Union (NFU), and Grimme UK. Visit for more information.

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