Coroner advises MOT testing for farm machinery

February 13, 2017

The inquest into the death of a Silverbridge farmer who died in an accident on his farm in August last year has heard how compulsory MOT-type testing of farming machinery would be “a good thing”.

Gene Murphy (70) was crushed under the wheel of his tractor while working on his family farm, just a short distance from his home.

During Wednesday’s inquest, Coroner Paddy McGurgan said although most farmers are competent with the upkeep and repair of machinery, tractors are becoming more complicated and, as such, maintenance is often a job for a specialist.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSENI) into the accident which claimed the life of Mr Murphy found that his tractor had a number of defects and that problems with the handbrake and gear box allowed the heavily-loaded tractor to roll forward, trapping him under the front wheel.

The agency found that faults with farm machinery have accounted for a number of similar tragic accidents in recent years.

Responding to this disclosure Mr McGurgan said, in his opinion, such machinery should be subject to MOT testing.

“It is disappointing to note that the EU in their wisdom, the powers that be, have rejected the need for an MOT-type system involving farming machinery.  I as coroner believe that could only have been a good thing,” he said.

Mr Murphy had hitched a trailer and loaded it with eight tonnes of soil at a laneway on a slight slope on Lough Road in Silverbridge on August 25th last year.

The coroner found that it was likely that after filling the trailer the tractor began to move forward and the victim tried to get into the cab to rescue the machine and fell in front of the wheel.

Mr McGurgan said the accident was a result of “a sequence of very unfortunate events coming together.  The tractor cooling, the load, the handbrake slipping and the fault in the gearbox.”

The father-of-four sustained severe injuries and despite the efforts of a relative and his nurse daughter who performed CPR, he passed away.

Malcolm Downey, who investigated the accident for the HSENI, said the organisation was planning a media campaign to highlight the danger of defective tractor brakes.