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September 30, 2009

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HSE warns about dangers of farm machinery

The HSE has issued a warning to farmers about the dangers of power take-off (PTO) shafts, which drive machinery at the rear of tractors.

The warning follows a safety competition run by Lantra within the HSE’s stand at the Royal Highland Show. 214 people entered the competition, which required them to fill in a questionnaire on PTO shaft safety. Only two entrants managed to answer all ten questions correctly, and this raised concerns at the HSE about the low level of awareness about the dangers of using this equipment.

Mr Michael McTurk of Barbush Farm in Dumfries, and Mr C Heading of Walnut Farm in Peterborough, each won a Socket set, sponsored by Lantra, for answering all the questions correctly.

Examining the results of the questionnaires, HSE inspector Lawrence Murray commented: “Whether or not all those who filled in the questionnaires worked directly on farms, it is still quite alarming to see that 12% of respondents thought that children under the age of 13 are legally able to operate PTO driven equipment. This is especially worrying given that the questionnaire was conducted just before the school summer holidays.

“Unfortunately every year people are killed and or seriously injured in accidents involving unguarded or poorly maintained PTO drive shafts.   Most of these accidents are preventable if the PTO drive shaft is fitted with guards of good design which are properly used and maintained, and ensuring that the chain is in position.

“It is a cause for concern that farming and agricultural work remains the most dangerous ways to make a living.  I would like to remind farmers that taking simple steps to improve safety is all it takes to avoid injury and death in their workplace.”

More information on managing health and safety in agriculture can be found inside the HSE’s Farmwise guide. This information is available at


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