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Farmers given time-limit on tractor use

October 12th, 2001

After debates about the bend in bananas, the size of Welsh farmers’ leeks and cheese that almost couldn’t call itself Caerphilly, Brussels has turned its attention to the tractor. Assuming its directive gets the go-ahead, from today farmers will be allowed to drive tractors for a maximum of seven hours a day. … Last night NFU Cymru Wales described the plan, coupled to an EU directive on vibrations, as more Alice in Wonderland stuff from Brussels: “What are we to expect next – a directive telling farmers how long they can go without answering the call of nature?”
(The Western Mail, 25 April 2002, p1)

Farm workers could be prevented from driving tractors for more than three hours a day under proposed European Union rules….
(Daily Mail, 12 October 2001, p 31)

Studies show that prolonged use of machinery can cause physical damage to workers. The aim of the Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive, which was unanimously agreed by Member States’ ministers, is to improve health and safety by setting maximum levels of exposure in order to reduce the danger posed to workers. It will cost less to act now at the prevention stage, rather than waiting to pay compensation and sickness benefit to people unable to work having used this machinery all their lives. Although the directive must be implemented within three years, the EU recognises the special case of the agriculture industry so the rules will not apply to farmers until 2014. Furthermore, many farmers will not be affected because those self-employed will be exempt from the rules. The UK government was fully involved in the legislative process of the directive and the suggestion that it has been imposed arbitrarily by the EU is incorrect.

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