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February 24, 2010

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Tractor driver ignored speeding warnings

A farm worker, who ignored warnings about driving farm vehicles at speed, has been fined £450 after killing his employer while reversing a tractor.

On 25 April 2007, John Peter Metcalfe was operating a tractor, which was attached to a muck spreader, to fertilize fields at White Meadow Farm in Osmaston, Derbyshire. He had received numerous warnings from his employer, Edward Fox, that he was driving too fast, including one on the day of the incident.

At the end of the day Metcalfe returned to the farm’s courtyard to park the tractor. The vehicle was covered in mud and, as a result, he had no rear-view vision. As he was reversing into the yard, he ran over Mr Fox, who received serious crush injuries and died at the scene. The incident took place on the same day as Mr Fox’s 73rd birthday.

HSE investigators found a four-and-a-half metre skid mark at the scene and were able to estimate that the vehicle was travelling at 12 mph at the time of impact. Inspector Dr Samantha Farrar revealed that Metcalfe had music playing in the tractor cab and did not hear anything from outside, but felt the impact.

“This was a tragic case where the actions of one farm worker ultimately left his employer dead,” said Dr Farrar. “Mr Metcalfe had already been warned about driving the tractor at speed around the farm, but, sadly, did not take this advice on board.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of watching out for other people and keeping speed down when driving tractors, especially when visibility is restricted.”

Metcalfe appeared at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ court on 18 February and pleaded guilty to breaching s7(a) of the HSWA 1974. In addition to the fine he was ordered to pay £1000 in costs.

In mitigation, Metcalfe said he had no previous related convictions and entered an early guilty plea. He said that Mr Fox was like a second father to him and he deeply regretted the incident.   

Dr Farrar added: “It was Mr Metcalfe’s responsibility to clean the vehicle’s windows to ensure that his visibility was not impaired. If he had done this and heeded the warnings about his speed then this incident is less likely to have taken place.”

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