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The 'Legal' Corner

This section of the site is a resource for Sledge owners and operators to help you all keep up-to-date with legislation concerning the operation of a Tractor Pulling Sledge.

Following the Inquest in into the death of Jan van Alphen on the 26th August, 2009 at Great Eccleston, the HSE has released the Coroners closing remarks so everyone who operates a Sledge can be left in no doubt of the consequences should the same incident occur again...

Here are the links: -

HSE Prosecution of A.W. Blake Ltd.

As a follow-up to the Coroners Inquest, the HSE prosecution went to Court (presumably on Monday 4th April, 2011) and A.W. Blake Ltd. pleaded guilty to health and safety failures although the Lancashire Evening Post report does not state what these failures were.

The case has been adjourned until 6th June when the Judge will pass sentence. At the time of writing (Thursday 7th April, 2011) there is no sign of anything relating to this prosecution on the HSE web site so we shall just have to wait and see.

The one rather unpleasant fact to emerge from the case is the matter of Sledge Insurance. Andrew Blake was convinced the insurance covered Tractor Pulling but since the Insurance Companies always exclude Motor Sport and as Tractor Pulling is a Motor Sport then the Sledge was not covered. I guess all the Sledge owners and Sledge Hirers up and down the country will now be checking the wording of their Insurance Polices very carefully. If in doubt consult your Broker!

A.W.Blake Ltd found guilty of H&S failing

Poppey AW Blake Ltd, of Ivegill near Carlisle, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by putting lives at risk. The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £15,000 in prosecution costs.

On Sunday 26th August, 2007 Jan van Alphen was competing in the Euro Challenge Cup in Great Eccleston when his tractor was crushed. A 12 tonne box of weights, attached to the Sledge he was pulling, hit the back of his tractor.

Mr van Alphen, who had been involved in the tractor pulling motor sport since its introduction in the Netherlands in 1979, had won dozens of national and European championship titles. He was married with three children.

Preston Crown Court heard the 58-year-old had been pulling the Sledge at approximately 60 miles an hour when the control mechanism failed. The weight box on the back on the trailer crashed through safety buffers and into Mr van Alphen's tractor as he tried to slow down.

It took fire and ambulance services an hour to free him from the wreckage before he could be airlifted to hospital, where he died from severe crush injuries

Mighty ChallengerOn August 25, the day before Mr van Alphen was killed, the sledge carrying a weight began “free-wheeling” and crashed into the back of the vehicle on two occasions.

An employee of A W Blake saw these collisions but did not bring them to the attention of company director Andrew Blake or act upon them, the court heard.

Judge Stuart Baker said these collisions could have led to a weakening of the end stop on the vehicle and said: “The fact of free-wheeling and collisions giving rise to the risk was something that had occurred on the day before the accident.”

The HSE investigation found engineers had attempted to repair a fault in the trailer's control mechanism on three separate occasions during the previous day. The mechanism should have caused the weight box to move up the trailer rails slowly until it reached the buffers.

Despite the recurrent fault, the trailer was still put back into use on Sunday at the Great Eccleston Showground.

Andrew BlakeDominic Kay, defending, told the court had Mr Blake been aware of the impacts he would have taken the Mighty Challenger out of the competition.

The investigation also concluded the trailer would not have met the rules of the European Tractor Pulling Committee or the British Tractor Pulling Association. Tests showed that the emergency brakes, although fitted, could not stop the weight box quickly enough.

Liz Evans, the investigating inspector at HSE, said:

Jan van Alphen"Mr van Alphen was an experienced tractor-pulling competitor but he lost his life because AW Blake Ltd didn't do enough to look after his safety. It was given three warnings the previous day that the control mechanism wasn't working properly, but did not take the trailer out of use at the event.

"The company also failed to follow the guidelines set down by the governing body for tractor-pulling. The motor sport is a potentially high-risk activity and so it's vital the rules are followed to the letter.

"It's tragic the excellent health and safety record of tractor pulling events has been tarnished by the failings of one company. I hope lessons will be learnt from this so that both the public and drivers can continue to enjoy tractor pulling events safely in the future."

♣ Note: Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

Here is the full article on the HSE web site...