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Written by
on 08 June 2011


A father of three lost his life in a crash which occurred at a Lancashire tractor pulling contest in August 2007. Jan Van Alphen was in control of the tractor during the Euro Challenge Cup event when his vehicle was crushed.  On the back of his tractor was a trailer which contained a box of weights weighing twelve tonnes.

Control Mechanism failed in Tractor Pulling Accident

The trailer was being pulled when it was forced into the back of the tractor when the controls failed.  Jan Van Alphen was driving around 60 mph which caused the trailer to smash through the safety buffers once the driver began to slow down.

When the Health and Safety Executive investigated the accident it was revealed that the weights and trailer belonged to AW Blake Ltd.  The HSE prosecuted the Carlisle based company when it was discovered that the control mechanism was known to have problems.  Four mechanics tried to resolve the issues the day before the event, but the trailer was still used despite the fault.

Experienced Tractor Puller Crushed in the Race

Jan Van Alphen was aged 58 and had many years’ of experience in tractor pulling.  He won many national championships and was also successful in the European championships.  The driver was crushed by the heavy weights and trailer and it took the emergency services sixty minutes to free him from the vehicle. He died from severe crush injuries once he arrived at the hospital.

The HSE inspectors stated that the condition of the trailer would not have met with the standards set by the British and European Tractor Pulling Associations.  Neither would have allowed the trailer be used according to their rules.  The brakes would not have been able to stop the weight of the trailer in time. Health and safety consultants would not have allowed the vehicle to be used had they been consulted before the race.

Guilty Plea by AW Blake Ltd

The firm pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of Jan Van Alphen.  They were fined £20,000 for breaching section 3(1) and of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.  They were also ordered to pay the prosecution costs of £15,000.

The health and safety inspector, Liz Evans stated that AW Blake Ltd had not done everything they could to ensure the safety of Jan Van Alphen.  Despite receiving warnings about the problems with the control mechanism they still allowed the trailer to be used in the competition.

In addition to this they also disregarded the regulations set by the tractor pulling associations. Due to the high risk nature of the sport it is vital that all the safety measures are scrupulously followed.  Tractor pulling has excellent health and safety history which has been tarnished by this tragic accident.  The Health and Safety Executive are hopeful that this accident will help prevent further accidents and that the tractor pulling events will be run successfully in the future.

Health and Safety Services

In all events organised by employees it is essential to ensure the safety of the workers taking part.  The health and safety services offered by Veritas Consultants are there to ensure that risk assessments are performed to reduce the chances of accidents occurring.  Call 0800 1488 677 to discuss the services provided by expert health and safety consultants.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

One Comment
  • Astutis says:

    This tragic accident was so unnecessary, if there was any possibility that there may be a problem with the controls the vehicle should have been excluded from the competition.

    It is extremely unfortunate that Jan Van Alphen paid the ultimate price for this accident, just think what could have happened if the accident had played out differently, a mass incident with many injured or dead. Stronger enforcement from the British and European Tractor Pulling Associations is required.