New EU regulations on tractor vibrations will have little impact on farmers, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has insisted.
It was responding to media reports suggesting the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations (2005) could limit tractor use to just 30 minutes a day when the rules come into effect in July 2014 and see workplace injury claims soar.
The HSE said it “does not recognise the 30-minute limit” and pointed to its own research, using machines manufactured between 2001 and 2005, which showed that few farming activities exceed the exposure limits during an average working day.
HSE chief inspector of agriculture Graeme Walker said: “If farmers are following the advice outlined in the long-standing HSE guidance, ‘Whole-body vibration in agriculture’, the exposure limit is not likely to be reached and the regulations should not require significant changes to established working practices.”
He added that machines built since 2005 have improved suspension and other features that “greatly reduce the vibration experienced by farm workers”.
“Even for those using older machines there are some simple steps that they can take to reduce vibration levels, including ensuring that vehicles – and particularly seats and suspensions – are regularly maintained. We certainly would not expect the regulations coming into force to lead farmers to replace serviceable equipment earlier than they would otherwise have wanted to,” he said.
“We will continue to work with the agricultural industry to help farmers understand the regulations and prepare for their introduction.”
NFU regulatory affairs adviser Ben Ellis takes a different view, however, calling the legislation “impracticable and unenforceable” and warned it could hinder the competitiveness of farmers.
“We think that the emphasis should be upon machinery manufacturers to design machinery that limits vibration,” he said. “As responsible operators and employers, farmers will use equipment safely and appropriately on a daily basis.”
Source: Farmers Weekly