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Firm fined after work crushed by tractor wheel

15 April 2014

An Angus company has been fined for serious safety failings after a worker suffered severe crush injuries when a tractor wheel fell on him. Michael Davidson, of Arbroath, then 28, was trying to protect another worker when the incident happened on 12 November 2012 at a farm near Carnoustie.

Arbroath Sheriff Court heard today (15 April) that Mr Davidson, an employee of Angus Tyres Ltd, was working alone to replace all four wheels on the tractor. He had just removed the wheel nuts of the rear left wheel when he became aware of a farm worker working closely behind with his back to him.

Mr Davidson glanced over his shoulder concerned that the man was too close and that he could be injured if the wheel fell on him. As Mr Davidson looked back the wheel was coming off the studs but he was unable to steady it and it started to fall towards him. He managed to prevent it hitting the farm worker but the falling wheel knocked Mr Davidson to the floor and landed on his left side.

He was taken to hospital with a collapsed lung, fractured ribs, a broken leg and broken collarbones, the latter needing two operations. Mr Davidson was off work for seven months but has since returned to full duties. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed various failures in the company’s management of health and safety. Neither a risk assessment nor a manual handling assessment had been conducted in respect of changing tractor wheels. Angus Tyres Ltd had also failed to make enquiries with the customer at the farm to determine the weight of the tractor wheels, which can be up to half a tonne.

There was no safe system of work in place for changing tractor wheels and no training had been given to employees to enable them to carry out the task safely. Employees were left to change wheels alone with no consideration for the considerable weights being handled by a single person. Angus Tyres Ltd, of Hill Place, Arbroath, was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Michelle Gillies, said: "It was entirely foreseeable that tractor wheels would be heavy and difficult for one person to handle alone. They can quickly become unstable and aside from the danger of crush injuries that resulted in this case, people working with wheels of such a weight are exposed to strain injuries. "The task being undertaken by Mr Davidson was not an unusual one and the risks are well recognised in the trade but the way the work was being carried out was inherently unsafe. Angus Tyres Ltd should have properly assessed the risks in advance to determine the correct equipment and training needed to change the tractor wheels safely.”

Information about repairing agricultural vehicles safely can be found on the HSE website at: www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/topics/maintenance-2.htm#wheel