The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)
Call to extend tractor rules
The Health and Safety Executive has dismissed claims that a 30minute daily operating limit would be enforced on farm staff using tractors.
Farmers and a politician last night called for an exemption to a European regulation which would limit the time their staff spend in tractors and other farm machinery to be extended.
NFU Scotland said the whole- body vibration (WBV) rules could have a disproportionate impact on food production as well as imposing huge, prohibitive costs to modifymachines so they comply.
The legislation was imposed on wider industry in 2005, but agriculture and forestry were given a nineyear exemption which ends next July.
Fears were expressed by a healthandsafety group at the weekend that the rules would, if strictly enforced, impose a 30-minute daily operating limit on farm staff undertaking some tasks such as ploughing.
However, the Health and Safety Executive yesterday dismissed that claim.
Tests it conducted in 2005 on what were then termed “state-of-the art” and “modern agricultural machines” showed that, in the majority of farming work-related scenarios, few operations approached or exceeded the vibration exposure limit values during an eight-hour day.
Many farms still have older machines made before improvements were made to cabs and seats to reduce vibration andrisk of back pain.
NFUScotlandcommunications director Bob Car- ruth said the simplest solution would be to extend the exemption as older machinery would over time be scrapped and replaced.
“We’d be seeking commonsense,” he said. “We’d like Europe to recognise the improvements being madetoimprovethe health and safety of operators.
“It’s no l onger j ust padded seats and suspended seats. A lot of cabs are also suspended.”
MEP George Lyon said the threat of fields going unploughed was “an ut- terly ludicrous state of affairs”. He said there was an overwhelming case for the exemption to be extended.
The Scottish Government said it would resist any proposal deemed disproportionateor unreasonable. It added that, with the farming calendar dependent on the weather, it would be impossible to limit how long farmers can be exposed to vibration.
HSE acknowledged the unique challenges facing both farming and forestry. A spokesman said: “We would expect the farming industry to use judgement and commonsense.”