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Farm employer handed 12-month sentence after telehandler fatality

An employer has been sentenced to 12 months in prison following a workplace fatality on his Tipperary farm.

The case involving the incident, which took place in summer 2016, came before Clonmel Circuit Court on Thursday, July 6th, 2023.

On June 26th 2016, a telehandler being used to carry out work on a farm holding at Coleman, Fethard, County Tipperary, went out of control and overturned.

As a result, an employee suffered fatal injuries, and another employee suffered a serious injury, the court heard.

The employer, who was the farm owner and the owner of the telehandler, failed to manage and conduct work activities in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of his employees.

Furthermore, the employer failed to maintain the telehandler in such a way as to reduce risks to the users of the telehandler.

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Telehandler fatality 

It was, the court heard, “in a dangerous condition, unsafe and unfit for use” in that the brakes, accelerator cable, transmission selector, cab door and seat belt were not maintained.

Judge John Martin handed down a 12-month prison sentence on an employer who had earlier pleaded guilty to charges in breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007.

The employer pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 8(2)(a) contrary to Section 77(9)(a) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, and to Regulations 31(c) and 40(b)(iii) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 contrary to Section 77(2)(c) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005.

Mark Cullen, assistant chief executive officer of the Health and Safety Authority, said:

“Working with machinery and vehicles is a well-known hazard in all workplaces.”

“It is vitally important that employers maintain all machinery and vehicles being used in their workplaces, which includes farms, to ensure that the safety, health and welfare of their employees carrying out work activities are able to do so safely.”

“Employers should also ensure that adequate operator training is provided and that risk assessments are carried out in advance of the work activities commencing, in order to ensure appropriate control measures are identified and put in place to prevent an incident.”

“Failure to do so in this case has unfortunately led to a preventable workplace fatality,” Cullen said.

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