The National Traction Engine Trust

Analysis: Karl Doran – lessons to be learned?

Road steam operation at museums and rallies

By David Smith (Head of Technical Services Unit, NTET), Victoria Wise (HM Inspector, Health and Safety Executive) and Paul Jarman (Beamish Museum Keeper of Transport).

Most people will be aware of the tragic accident at Beamish Museum in July 2012 in which seven year-old Karl Doran tragically died after falling from a steam roller that was towing a trailer.

At the inquest the Coroner returned a verdict of accidental death, with an instruction to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and Beamish to work together to disseminate the lessons learnt from this case to other interested parties and event organisers. The Trust has also joined in with this process..

We collectively hope that the information described here and made available via the various links to websites in the notes below will be of use and value to everyone involved with our hobby to continued their enjoyment, in a safe and controlled manner.

Beamish’s own Risk Assessments for Road Steam Vehicles consider both the involvement of children in operations and the towing of vehicles. They acknowledge the work of the NTET who have made available a wide variety of downloadable guidelines for Road Steam Vehicle operators and rally/event organisers. These, together with some useful guidelines from the HSE, can be found via the links given at the end of this article.

A key focus of Beamish’s procedures is a consideration of the child’s age. A separate Risk Assessment is triggered where any member of the crew is under the age of 13. This Risk Assessment includes specific control measures and states that there should be no towing allowed when a member of the crew is under the age of 13. This age was determined following discussion with the HSE, who referred to their own guidelines regarding children and agricultural activities.

David Smith writes:
The National Traction Engine Trust is committed to “Preserving our Heritage in Steam on the Road” in a safe manner. The NTET is a voluntary organisation with membership by subscription, and it recognises and is committed to its duty of care to its members and the public. The NTET cannot impose any statutory duties created under the Health & Safety at Work etc., Act 1974, on its members, but it does want to help its members fulfil their duty of care to the public.

The NTET will also consider the requirements of the Act, and the regulations enabled by the Act as appropriate, to enable the NTET to fulfil its duty of care. The NTET recognise the requirements of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and implements a Safety Management System in accordance with the Health & Safety Executive’s model HS (65) “Successful Health & Safety Management”. This includes a Statement of Intent, the organisation and arrangements responsible for implementing the Health & Safety standards and expectations, together with a monitoring, audit and review process.

In implementing such a Safety Management System, the NTET will seek to minimise the risk associated with the principle hazards associated with heritage steam plant, such as pressure systems, machinery, and movement of people and vehicles etc. The NTET, through its various ‘management centres’, consults on health and safety matters with its membership. Needless to say, this advice is made as widely available as possible, to benefit all operators of road steam vehicles, not just NTET members.

It is worth considering some of the basic tenants of the Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) that are relevant here, with regard to the duty of care from both organisers and participants of Road Steam Vehicle related activities.

Victoria Wise, HM Inspector, Health and Safety Executive, comments:
“It is an organiser’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. Organisers must do what is reasonably practicable to achieve this. This means making sure those taking part and others are protected from anything that may forseeably cause harm, effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise through the activity”.

“Organisers have duties under health and safety law to make an assessment of the risks associated with the activities they are running. Organisers must give those taking part information about the risks connected to what they are doing and how they are to be controlled, and where necessary, instruct and train them on how to deal with the risks”.

“Health and safety regulation does not prevent learning through experience. It can be undertaken in a planned way with direct supervision. There is nothing wrong with a child watching what you do as long as:

1. the task itself is not inherently dangerous
2. the person doing the task is not the same person supervising the child
3. the child is kept in a safe place

“You will know that there can be risks to children that are only perceived as obvious risks by adults. When you are deciding what may cause harm to children, it may help to remember that children may not see the risk. Remember it is your duty to control and manage any risks identified and that you must take the immaturity, inexperience and lack or awareness of children into account”.

“You must consider where the child can be safely positioned to observe the operation of the steam engine. Is there a suitable seat? How will they be supervised? Children under 13 years old may only legally ride on a trailer, or on a load carried by a trailer, if there are adequate means, such as edge protection, to prevent them falling from it. You should adopt the same standards of protection if you carry older children”.

“Never allow a child, or any person, to ride on the drawbar of a steam engine or trailer.

Paul Jarman (Beamish) notes:
Finally, it must be remembered that the obligation for any assessment of risk for a road steam event or rally lies with the organiser. Even though HSE accepts that Beamish operates safely with the Risk Assessments it has in place (see links below for details), everyone should be cautious about simply adopting the same control measures for their individual events. There will inevitably be specific and particular risks that will need to be taken into account, with reference to an individual operation, organisation or locality.

Therefore the information available from the links below from Beamish and the NTET relating to Road Steam Vehicle operation are intended as a prompt: a starting point to encourage others to review Risks Assessments in place in their organisations and venues.
As we all know, it is vital that the appropriate Risk Assessments and operating procedures are communicated to all operators (not just the owners) and that effective briefings are given to everyone involved in the operations.


The following links give access to a large amount of information, advice and guidelines relevant to the operation of Road Steam Vehicles at museums, on the rally field, on the road and on private land.

Beamish Museum’s Instructions for operators of Road Steam Vehicles: (under ‘Downloads’)

NTET Owners/Drivers home page:

NTET Risk Assessment for Rally Organisers:

Preventing accidents to Children on Farms:

Carrying Passengers on Farm Trailers:

16 Aug 2014