Farmer's death attributed to poorly maintained utility

The danger of using poorly maintained vehicles on farms is to be brought to the wider attention of farmers following the death of a Lee Stream farmer, killed when a utility vehicle with a faulty handbrake and battery ran over him on a hill.

After drafting sheep with his son, Anthony Nichol, on the morning of December 8, 2010, Alan Nichol (62) was moving sheep when he stopped the ute, which was used only on the farm, facing downwards on a slope. He took the vehicle out of gear, left the engine running, pulled on the handbrake and got out of the vehicle.

In his finding on Mr Nichol's death, Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar said the farmer then walked along the track in front of the vehicle, but, being hard of hearing, failed to hear the vehicle rolling towards him. Mr Nichol was run over by it and fatally injured.

A police inspection determined that the truck handbrake was faulty and there was very little brake fluid in the vehicle, while the Department of Labour determined the engine was left running because the battery was unreliable, and the ute may have otherwise needed to be jump-started.

Mr Crerar found the handbrake probably released because of the vibration of the running motor, and the truck ran forward, over Mr Nichol.

It had been "unwise"to stop the truck on a relatively steep farm road, Mr Crerar said.

"I agree with the observation of the Department of Labour inspector in that, although vehicles operating solely within the confines of a farm are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as vehicles operating on public roads, such vehicles should continue to be regularly serviced by appropriately qualified tradesmen.

"The servicing should focus on matters of essential safety."

He recommended his finding be forwarded to Federated Farmers to be published for its members, and to identify the need for farm vehicles being regularly inspected and maintained for the purposes of safety.

 

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