Agricultural Machinery (Safety Regulations)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd July 1959.

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10.39 p.m.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I beg to move, That the Agriculture (Stationary Machinery) Regulations, 1959, a draft of which was laid before this House on 16th June, be approved. The Regulations, unlike the two previous Orders, are entirely new, and I shall have to deal with them at a little more length. They are the most recent in the series which have been made under the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, 1956, and whose prime purpose is, I am sure, agreed by all sides of the House, namely, to safeguard the worker on the farm.

As the House will remember, we have already introduced Regulations about first aid on farms, ladders, the safeguarding of power take-off points and of circular saws and of workplaces, as well as others designed to reduce the accidents to children on farms. Those now before the House deal with certain farm machinery designed for stationary use only. This machinery is the type which includes corn mills, root cutters, grain drying and cleaning plant, meal mixers and hop pluckers. Transmission machinery used with such machines is also included and so are the prime movers which work them. Although stationary threshers, hullers, balers and trussers would come within this definition, they need special treatment and are left for a later set of Regulations.

It is important that farmers understand exactly what machines are covered. The definition in the Regulations states that "stationary machines" means any machine designed or adapted for stationary use only. It follows, therefore, that any field machine which for convenience is used in a stationary position in the farmyard or elsewhere is not covered by these Regulations, but if it is adapted for permanent use in this stationary position, then it would come within the terms of the Regulations.

I should like now to comment briefly on the main points in the Order. Shafting, pulleys, belts, flywheels and similar machinery will have to have guards of adequate strength unless these components are safely positioned out of the way of workers. Slow-moving belts or chains such as conveyors need to be guarded only at the run-on point: this also applies to primary driving belts except where they are part of a fixed installation, when the whole length of the belt must be guarded.

Guards have to be provided for feeding inlets and discharge outlets of machines which grind or similarly treat grain, and those which prepare feedingstuffs such as roots, hay, etc.

Both machines and prime movers must have readily accessible stopping devices. These will, for prime movers, often be switches and there are special requirements for their effectiveness such as clear identification with the prime mover concerned.

Employers will, in the main, be allowed two years to make the necessary arrangements, but the comparatively easy guarding of feeding inlets and discharge outlets of certain machines that deal with grain must be done in twelve months. This shorter period also applies to provision of adequate light and maintenance of belts.

Manufacturers and dealers have not been given legal responsibility. The guards required frequently depend on the position of the machine in relation to the worker, or to other machines, of which the manufacturer could not be expected to be aware. The layout of an installation is primarily the concern of the farmer. However, organisations representing both manufacturers and dealers have been consulted during the framing of the Regulations and I have every confidence that they will cooperate. Experience with earlier Regulations in this field is encouraging.

Interested organisations have been consulted and the draft Regulations have been accepted by all sides of the farming industry. We shall, as with earlier Regulations, use all available means to inform people concerned of their responsibilities: publicity will include leaflets explaining the detailed requirements, and more general announcements as reminders.

Our safety inspectors will be only too glad to advise farmers who are in difficulties. Although I cannot, of course, promise that we shall never use our powers of prosecution, we are not out for a crop of prosecutions on technical infringements. We want to make farm machinery safer by some reasonable precautions: we shall proceed by publicity, advice and warnings, and keep prosecutions as really a last resort.

I feel certain that, as useful and necessary additions to the existing safety measures, these Regulations will commend themselves to the House.

10.44 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North

I welcome these Regulations without any reservation. When the Bill was in Standing Committee I moved an Amendment to try to make such a provision as this in the Bill itself. I withdrew the Amendment because the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then the Minister, was sympathetic to the principle and undertook to produce an Amendment, if he could, on Report. But he found it impossible to do that, I think for two reasons. One was the difficulty of definition within the Bill itself and the second was the need for consultation.

Having studied the Regulations, I would accept the difficulty of definition within the terms of the Bill itself. The Chancellor said that we would have Regulations as early as possible. That was three years ago, but I do not make any complaint about this because it is quite clear that this has been a difficult matter. I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary—in fact I emphasised the point during the Committee proceedings—that it is absolutely essential to hold the fullest consultations in matters of this sort. I agree entirely with him that this is not an object to be attained by prosecution, but an object to be attained by the utmost co-operation by those in the industry and those responsible for the manufacture of the machinery.

It is because there has been full consultation and because there has been agreement to these Regulations that I wish to raise no point on the Regulations themselves. I think that if we have such consultation, and if we do secure agreement, we have to recognise that the Regulations are the best provision which can be made and will be the most effective provision which can be made. I notice the provision for certificates of exemption. I recognise the unavoidable necessity of such certificates, but I hope that no undue use will be made of them.

Everyone who took part in the discussions on the Bill recognised that static machinery has caused ghastly accidents in the agricultural community. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee shared the desire to try to seek for the agricultural worker a status comparable with that of the industrial worker, and I should like to take this occasion to congratulate the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and his Department on the excellent work they have done, and to encourage them to produce in due course further regulations so that we may have parity between the agricultural and the industrial worker.

10.46 p.m.

Photo of Mr Raymond Mawby Mr Raymond Mawby , Totnes

I wish to join in welcoming these Regulations. The main thing about them is that they draw the attention of those engaged in agriculture to the many dangers which are always there whenever stationary machinery is used.

In an ordinary factory, which, of course, for many years has been subject to the Factories Acts, from the beginning of the time a boy enters it to work, the dangers are pointed out to him, so that he knows full well that by removing guards and so on he is exposing himself to danger—and also his employer, because the employer is obliged to make certain that everyone working in his factory is aware of the dangers which can arise from working there.

No matter what walk of life we are in, we always assume that it is other people, not ourselves, who have accidents. I believe that these Regulations, if carried out properly, will certainly draw the attention of those engaged in agriculture to the many dangers which do arise whenever there is machinery in operation. Particularly am I interested in the insistence that there shall be good natural or artificial light whenever there are prime movers and shafting in operation in barns and other places, because the workers are so used to going there and doing certain operations in semi-darkness that they do not realise the dangers to which they are thus exposed.

I believe that these Regulations will do a grand job of work in making certain that all those engaged in agriculture will be made aware of the dangers, and that in that way the Regulations will give them added protection in their jobs.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Agriculture (Stationary Machinery) Regulations, 1959, a draft of which was laid before this House on 16th June, be approved.