County Antrim agricultural contractor fined for failing to maintain machinery brakes

Date published: 03 April 2023

The Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) has successfully led a prosecution against a County Antrim based company, William Patton Agricultural Contractor Limited. The case arose following the death of an employee on 15 September 2021 who was operating a tractor and manure spreader on farmland at Islandmagee, County Antrim.

On 22 March 2023 at Ballymena Magistrates Court, the Company was fined £1,000 for failing to ensure the safety of all employees by not maintaining the brakes of the manure spreader. There was no evidence to prove, however, that the maintenance defect was the cause of the accident.

Speaking after the hearing, Kyle Carrick, Head of HSENI’s Major Investigation Team, said: “Poorly maintained or ineffective brakes have resulted in a number of fatalities and serious injuries within the agriculture sector.

“In addition to being a legal requirement, ensuring braking systems are maintained and working properly is essential in protecting everyone who work or live on our farms.

“In this case, the absence of effective braking to the manure spreader meant the operator would not have been able to operate the tractor and manure spreader safely, particularly when travelling on sloping ground.”

The investigation by HSENI established that the tractor and manure spreader, owned by William Patton Agricultural Contractor Limited, was being operated by an employee on a steep grass field with the hydraulic brakes of the manure spreader not connected to the tractor. It was found that the brakes of the manure spreader had not been maintained in good working order, to the extent that even if they had been connected to the tractor, they would not have prevented the accident.

Further information on essential safety requirements within agriculture can be found at  

Notes to editors: 

  1. Breaches and fines for William Patton Agricultural Contractor Limited are as follows: a) Article 4(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978: fine £1,000;
  2. For media enquiries please contact: HSENI Press Office on 028 9024 3249 or email For out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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