Combine harvester harvesting crops


Farm machinery inspections

When it comes to ensuring your farm machinery is safe, size doesn’t matter.

All farms, big or small, have a duty of care to workers.

Many farmers might assume that having engineering insurance means they are covered in the event of an accident — but just having this cover does not absolve them of all health and safety obligations.

The belief that compliance with the rules only applies to large commercial producers and not to smaller farms is a myth.

Typically, engineering insurance will cover sudden and unforeseen damage to plant and machinery on a farm — this could be a breakdown of a machine or the explosion of a boiler. Cover can insure vital equipment is repaired or replaced, with NFU Mutual also covering surrounding property that is impacted by such an event.

However, the cover will not involve a regular inspection of your plant or machinery, and on its own, is not enough to meet some of the industry regulations that exist in the UK. Additional protection for your farm and its contents is required.

Accidents are rare but they could mean:


  • Your site is closed down while the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigates
  • You lose a worker who is key to the successful operation of your business
  • You are unable to fulfil orders and have to let down your customers
  • Your reputation as a good employer and trusted supplier is damaged
  • You are forced to pay hundreds of pounds to the HSE under its Fee For Intervention cost recovery rules
  • Your insurance could be voided if you were deemed to be negligent
  • You and your family have to cope with the emotional impact of a colleague’s serious injury or death.


Farmers and rural businesses should also be aware that tougher sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences came into force on February 1, 2016.

This directs courts to consider culpability, the seriousness of harm risked and the likelihood of harm, as well as the size of business based on its turnover.

Commentators have predicted the new guidelines will result in increases in the amount companies can be fined as well as an increase in the number of individuals being given prison sentences.

What can you do about this?

An inspection of machinery and vehicles will help to identify whether it can be used safely and can help to detect any deterioration which can be remedied before it becomes a health and safety risk.

You should:

  • Ensure machinery and vehicles on the farm are regularly maintained;
  • Make certain only safe working loads are used when lifting (to comply with the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998)
  • Provide adequate training for workers using machinery
  • Use the right equipment for the job
  • Employ a competent and independent person to conduct a thorough examination of vehicles and machinery.


Where can I find out more?

With so many regulations to contend with, it can be confusing. NFU Mutual has partnered withVulcan Inspection Services, a leader in this field with over 150 years of expertise. Its Engineering Inspection Service keeps customers’ businesses moving by protecting people and property.

The business currently inspects over 75,000 items of equipment for NFU Mutual’s customers using highly trained Engineer Surveyors who are based all over the country including the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.

Vulcan Inspection Services is accredited by UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) and is a founding member of SAFed (The Safety Assessment Federation) which is the trade body for engineering inspection companies, ensuring consistency across the industry.

For more information visit Vulcan Inspection Services online or speak to your local NFU Mutual agent who can help arrange a visit at a time that fits with your busy schedule.


Article originally appeared in the August 2016 edition of NFU's British Farmer & Grower magazine