A judge has ordered a farm to pay over £66,000 after an employee (21) was killed whilst dismantling a redundant piece of farming equipment.
Farming partnership, J & D Foster Farms LLP, in the UK, appeared before Folkestone Magistrates’ Court earlier this week.
The court heard how, on April 30th, 2019, George Murrell was crushed by a grain drying tunnel at Fishpond Farm in Tonbridge.
Farm employee killed
A Health and Safety Executive investigation found that J & D Foster Farms LLP did not ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of the two employees and that the system of work in place was “intrinsically unsafe”.
The work involved dismantling the grain drying tunnel whilst working underneath it. The structure had heavy aggregate across the upper walkway.
The court heard the partners failed to ensure the structural integrity of the grain drying tunnel was not compromised during the dismantling, putting themselves and their employees at “significant” risk.
This risk materialised when the structure concertinaed and fell. It crushed George Murrell under the heavy aggregate and framework of the structure.
The farm partnership pleaded guilty to a breach of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The judge fined them £60,000 and ordered them to pay costs to the tune of £6,731.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Joanne Williams said:
“This incident has resulted in a young man losing his life in what was a wholly avoidable incident.”
She said the company’s failure to identify their own competencies in what was basically demolition work caused the accident.
“All too often, those working in the agriculture industry take on tasks which they are not competent to do. As in this case, this work can and does result in serious and even fatal injuries.”
“Every year, many people are killed or seriously injured within agriculture. Those working in the agricultural sector need to ensure they consider their competency when undertaking unusual activities on farms such as dismantling and demolition.”
UK farm accidents
Agriculture accounts for 1% of Britain’s workforce but 20% of worker deaths, which she views as an “extremely grim statistic”.
She said farmers need to assess whether “abnormal” work on enterprises is within the capability of farmworkers.
“For demolition work, as in this case, it will likely be safer and more efficient to contract out to professionals who understand the risks associated with demolition and dismantling and can properly plan and carry out the job using the correct equipment.”
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