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.”

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