Do I have to wear a seatbelt when I am driving our compact tractor and ride-on mowers?

 It may seem a simple question but there are several issues here. The bottom line is that it depends on your risk assessment.

Your risk assessment will determine whether your tractor or ride-on mower needs to be fitted with a rollover protection system (ROPS) or roll bar.

Take a look at the sites where you use these items of machinery. Are you travelling on or working on slopes? If you are, then there is a risk the machines could roll over. Where there is a risk of rollover, the machines should be fitted with a ROPS - probably a roll bar. And if there is a roll bar fitted, then there should be seatbelts and you should use them.

It is unlikely many groundsmen would approach a slope, stop at the bottom, fix the belt and then continue to work on the slope. For this reason it is better to use the seatbelt as soon as you mount the machine.

I know you are constantly jumping on and off the machine to open and shut gates, clear debris and adjust the mower, but modern seatbelts are quick and easy to use. It takes one hand to extend the belt and connect it in to the socket. There is no excuse not to do it.

Seatbelts are worn for safety reasons - in the event the machine rolls over and you are wearing the belt, you will be bruised and battered, but alive.

But there is another issue here. What if you are working on flat ground - where there are no slopes over, say, 15 degs? Where there is no risk of rollover, and you are doing amenity work, then you do not need a roll bar. Indeed, the roll bar can be a hazard in some circumstances. Imagine mowing a flat lawn or sports pitches edged with trees. If the roll bar were to catch on a low branch, the machine could easily flip backwards.

Next time you are considering buying a mower or compact tractor and the sales rep tries to throw in a roll bar, seatbelt, or even a tankful of fuel to secure the deal, think before you sign. Look at your sites, consider the work and decide whether the roll bar is needed. If you decide you need one for some jobs, consider having a bar that folds or is easily removed. But remember that belts must also be there and used in the circumstances identified by risk assessment.

Finally, remember that seatbelts need looking after. Regular safety checks should include seatbelt condition and operation, and maintenance should be in line with the manufacturer's instructions.


- Sally Drury has reported for HW and its forerunner GC&HTJ for 25 years, and has spent more than five years testing machinery for HW and What Kit? The advice in this helpline is independent.

- Email your questions to

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