A farmer has fallen foul of red tape, while having a quiet smoke in his tractor, parked off the road at a filling station.
According to the Ulster Farmers Union, the notice from the ‘tobacco control officer’ of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council claims he was ‘observed’ by an official smoking in a commercial vehicle capable of ‘carrying more than one person’.
This was deemed to break smoking in the workplace regulations – and the owner of the tractor, who is also a contractor, has been ordered to give the name of the person smoking, or face a fine of up to £1000.
Ulster Farmers Union deputy president, Barclay Bell said this seemed to be taking the Northern Ireland Smoking Order (2006) to extreme lengths. “At one level this is a bizarre and even funny example of excessive red tape, defining a tractor as capable of carrying more than one person,” he said, adding however that this raised more serious issues. “It is difficult to understand that in the same month we are being told the public sector has insufficient funds to improve road safety by cutting back hedges and verges in rural areas – yet a local council can afford someone to watch a tractor parked safely off the public road. Regardless of where you stand on smoking, in tough financial times it is justifiable to ask whether this is the best possible use of time and money,” said Mr Bell
“The notice was served on a UFU member, detailing the registration number of the tractor, setting out the time and location and warning of potential fines – complete with a two page form to disclose full details of the tractor, the person driving it and the tax status of what was very clearly a John Deere agricultural tractor. The UFU says this is a warning to farmers that they cannot escape red tape, even in their tractor or off the public road.