The plea comes after a 34-year-old was killed in Fife, Scotland, when his limbs became trapped in a potato harvester. The HSE is also investigating injuries to a man in Lincolnshire who was injured whilst using a chopping machine and another in Cambridgeshire who had his arm crushed by cleaning rollers.
In the last seven years, there have been three deaths involving potato harvesters and a number of injuries. Over the past five years, 82 workers suffered fatal injuries involving farm machinery between July and October, with deaths during these four harvest months accounting for almost half of all deaths in agriculture since 2004/05.
HSE's Tony Mitchell said: "We understand that farmers are under immense time pressures, with the weather often another obstacle to contend with, but this should not mean they take short cuts with safety, risking a lifetime of disability or death. This not only impacts on them, but also their families and their livelihoods.
"It is essential that proper systems are in place for cleaning machinery, fixing it or removing blockages. It must be switched off before any work is attempted on it."
The HSE has launched a campaign with the slogan ‘Make the promise. Come home safe', which aims to help reduce death and injury in the sector by raising awareness. More than 15,000 farmers have already signed up.
HSE has published an information sheet ‘Safe use of potato harvesters' available online at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ais13.pdf or by contacting HSE Books on 01787881165.
A Safe Potato Handling DVD has been produced by the Potato Council with support from HSE, the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Grimme UK.