Farm deliveries - Fatal vehicle overturn and overhead power line incidents

14 June 2016

The most common cause of serious and fatal injuries in agriculture involves moving and overturning vehicles.

HSE recently issued timely reminders about the risks to drivers from vehicles overturning or contacting overhead power lines, following reports of the death of a 61-year old driver crushed under his grain lorry while delivering animal feed at a farm in Honiton, Devon in February (see local media report) and another incident in which it appears that a 28 year old farm worker died when a lorry-mounted grab contacted an overhead power line (OHPL), at Middleton, near Manchester, on 8 April 2016. The Police are quoted in a local newspaper media report as saying that a 67-year-old man was also hurt during the incident.

In another recent incident (10 March) reported by HSE, it seems that a contractor died while visiting a farm in Devon to carry out work, and fell as he climbed over a wall.

We should all use any opportunity we can to raise awareness amongst farmers and other land-owners, as well as those visiting farms, woodland, etc, of the need to cooperate and share information to ensure that visiting workers such as delivery drivers and contractors are made aware of site risks and features.

Regarding general hazards any visiting casual or temporary workers - including lorry drivers, vets or contractors - can be at risk on farms, particularly if they are not familiar with the premises. Farmers have a duty to ensure that they are safe while on the premises, and the visitor has a duty to cooperate with the occupier.

The precautions for avoiding contact with overhead power lines have been well-documented on these pages in the past but the risk of delivery and other vehicles overturning has been less well-covered. 

Key messages for preventing overturning:

Any vehicle can overturn - not just on or near banks or ditches, on artificial slopes such as ramps or uneven surfaces, and even on flat ground. For useful advice, see:

  • The Farm Safety Partnership’s Safe Deliveries campaign and guidance is particularly relevant. This followed the release of the Agriculture Industry Confederation’s (AIC) "Code of Practice for Making Safe Deliveries of Animal Feed to Farms". Although aimed initially at the Agri-supply sector, it offers detailed information on the requirements to be met to safely accept delivery of animal feed.  An associated 4-page Guidance Note provides practical guidance on compliance with the AIC’s "Code of Practice", ideal to inform farmers of the key safety principles when organising delivery of feed (or any other materials) on-farm.
  • HSE’s ‘farm vehicles’ webpage also includes specific guidance on managing workplace transport issues within agriculture. The ‘Safe Stop’ procedure is also pertinent.

The key messages for OHPLs are:

  • Contact with electricity can kill, cause serious burns and disabling injuries.   
  • There are many electrical incidents which damage equipment and thousands of ‘near-misses’, any of which could have had fatal consequences.
  • Farm  machinery is getting bigger and taller, increasing the chances of a cable strike.   
  • Such incidents also cause disruption and costs to farmers, other businesses and the community.
  • Work should be planned to avoid tipping or loading in proximity to OHPLs and visiting drivers, etc, should be made aware of their location on the farm, and also what to do if they contact an OHPL -  as set out in the guidance below.
  • For premises where OHPLs are present it is good practice for the occupier to have ready access to emergency numbers, such as the electricity company’s Distribution Networks Officer (DNO), should an incident occur.

Relevant guidance on OHPLs includes:

Key messages for ‘safe access’:

  • Keeping premises safe includes providing safe means of access – eg handrails on stairs and ramps where necessary, and safety hoops or rest stages on long vertical fixed ladders used regularly, eg external access to grain bins.
  • Make sure that no one can fall from open edges such as catwalks above grain bins or feed lofts.
  • Action is required if there is a risk of injury of falls from walls, structures, into tanks, pits or onto projecting objects.
  • It is also suggested that visitors should be advised of safe routes to access work sites, and any potential hazards.

Guidance on general workplace safety and preventing falls can be found on HSE’s agriculture micro site.