A safety feature to prevent a tractor from being started while in gear, which had been “by-passed sometime before it being brought in for repair”, was responsible for the death of a part-time engineering student, a HSENI-led investigation has concluded.
The investigation followed a workplace fatality in Enniskillen on May 22nd, 2018, which resulted in the death of Neil Graham, a 17-year-old part-time engineering student.
His death occurred at the premises of Gordon Brown Agricultural Engineering, Boho Road, Enniskillen.
Gordon Brown, the owner of the business, and Neil, a part-time engineering student at South West College, Omagh, who was completing work placement at the time, were working on repairs to a tractor owned by C&V Loane Limited of Kesh, County Fermanagh.
While working underneath the tractor, a sitting at Belfast Crown Court on February 15th, 2023, heard, Neil was fatally crushed by the forward movement of the back right wheel after Gordon Brown started the vehicle.
An inspection pit was available in the workshop, from where the tractor could have been examined safely from below; however, it was not used at the time, the court heard.
Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), fines totalling £50,000 were handed down to three defendants at Belfast Crown Court.
Health and safety offences
Each of the three defendants had earlier pleaded guilty to the health and safety offences at a court hearing in November 2022.
Gordon Brown was fined £20,000 for failing to ensure the safety of his employee, Neil Graham, and for failing to implement a safe system while working under the tractor.
Jamie Loane, a director and employee of C&V Loane Limited, was fined £10,000 for failing in his duties as an employee to take reasonable care for the health and safety of another person.
The court fined C&V Loane Limited £20,000 for failings in respect of its duty to Neil Graham as someone who was not directly employed by the company.
Safety inspector comments
HSENI Inspector Anne Cassidy said the tragic incident “needlessly” claimed the life of a young man who was training to become a qualified mechanic.
Working under machinery of any description poses significant hazards, she outlined.
“This work activity was even more hazardous as a key safety feature of the tractor had been disabled.
“Every employer has a responsibility to ensure the safety of workers. The identification of safe systems of work is key to ensuring safe work practices,” Cassidy concluded.
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