Health and Safety Executive
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Warning to farmers using excavators with quick hitches for construction work

Farmers are being warned not to use semi-automatic quick hitches if they are missing a retaining pin, following a spate of fatal accidents in other industries.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has previously issued a warning to the construction industry after five deaths in less than five years. It is now urging all of those working with or alongside excavators to check their equipment regularly to avoid serious injury.

The common theme through all the fatal incidents was a missing retaining pin. A quick hitch may still operate for some time without the retaining pin in place and then, without warning, swing open or fall completely off. If this happens when lifting over or close to a person, the result is likely to be fatal.

Anyone using an excavator fitted with a quick hitch device should ensure they know what type of hitch they have, follow the safe system of work for that hitch as recommended by the manufacturer and make sure the manufacturer-specified retaining pin is always in place. They should check that the pin is in place on the hitch before starting work, and every time a different attachment is fitted.

Tony Mitchell, Inspector of Agricultural Safety, HSE, said: "Many farmers have to be 'jack of all trades' meaning they don't just carry out agricultural work, but they also have to do their own repairs and building work.

"HSE wants to ensure any farmer using a quick hitch on an excavator is aware of the serious risks of not following manufacturers' instructions and failing to ensure the pin is in place."

Farmers and contractors who carry out any construction work, which may include groundworks, building and building maintenance can keep up to date with the latest health and safety information by visiting the HSE website at

The Safety Alert on quick hitches can be viewed at

Notes to editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain's national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to prevent death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. A quick hitch on an excavator is a latching device that enables attachments to be connected to the dipper arm of the plant and changed quickly. When properly designed, maintained and used they can save a great deal of time.

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