Bereaved mum turned trailer campaigner to speak out in farm safety webinar

A woman whose 19-year-old son was killed by a grain trailer with faulty brakes is to speak at a farm safety webinar, tonight (Monday, September 28).

Jane Gurney’s son Harry was working as a seasonal farmworker, transporting grain by tractor for the 2014 harvest, when he died in a tragic accident.

Harry had been driving a Claas tractor pulling a Rolland trailer, when he lost control and crashed into a bridge near Alconbury, Cambridgeshire.

An investigation by the HSE found that the trailer on the tractor he was driving at the time was fitted with drum-type brakes that had not been correctly adjusted, rendering them ineffective.

Cambridge Crown Court ruled his employer, GW Topham & Son, breached health and safety rules, having poorly maintained the trailer. The firm was fined £400,000 as a result.

Jane hopes that sharing her story could encourage farmers and agricultural workers to carry out regular checks on machinery and lessen the chance of similar tragedies.

Jane, who farms on the Bedfordshire/Cambridgeshire border, has been the driving force behind trailer safety campaign ‘Tilly Your Trailer’.

The campaign (named after Harry’s dog, Tilly) established an 18-point inspection procedure, certificate and ‘Head to Tow’ App to ensure trailers are properly maintained and serviced.

‘Safety should be checked continuously – not just once a year’

“My campaign is all about helping and encouraging those working in agriculture to face up to their responsibilities on transport and farm safety and make sure that the vehicles and equipment they use are checked continuously – not just once a year,” Jane Gurney said.

We have to do everything we can to help all those working on farms to keep themselves – and others – safe.

The latest figures for Northern Ireland show there were seven fatalities on farms in 2018-2019 (the same figure as for the previous year).

A total 39 deaths have occurred as a result of farm accidents in Northern Ireland over the past six years

In the Republic of Ireland, there have so far been 16 fatalities as a result of accidents in the agricultural sector in 2020 – three less than for the whole of 2019 but one more than the fatalities figure for 2018.

Of all accidental deaths in agriculture and forestry over the last 10 years, nearly a third were due to accidents involving tractors and farm vehicles, including trailers.

In Britain, agriculture has the worst rate of worker fatal injury, per 100,000, of the main industrial sectors, with overturning vehicles or being struck by vehicles being the chief cause.

Emma Gilmore, chairman of the Northern Ireland Branch of IOSH, said: “We work closely with the Farm Safety Partnership here in Northern Ireland. We aim to collaborate and promote farm safety at every opportunity.

We recognise that 75% of farms here are classed by the HSENI as ‘very small’ and therefore difficult to reach and promote the safety and health message.

“We hope this webinar collaboration will help with this. When the opportunity arose for us to join up with the IOSH Scotland Branch, IOSH Ireland Rural Industries Sector, and the IOSH Rural Industries Group, we were delighted to have the chance.

“We could also see that listening to a heartfelt and tragic story, such as Jane Gurney’s, can really bring home a message to our audience.

The online event is a collaboration between the IOSH Scotland Branch, IOSH Northern Ireland Branch, IOSH Ireland Rural Industries Sector and the IOSH Rural Industries Group.

It will take place tonight at 6:00pm.