• Robert Spicer

Agriculture Crushing Death

Agriculture crushing death: £67,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Turfgrass Services International Ltd (2014) Hull Crown Court, July 9.

Turfgrass Services International Ltd, a specialist turf company, has been fined following the death of an employee.

Significant points of the case

  • In September 2011 Lee Woodhouse, an employee of Turfgrass, was using a 27 tonne turf harvester in a field on a farm in East Yorkshire.

  • He was struck and run over by the machine and suffered fatal injuries.

  • He was run over while walking alongside the machine to observe or adjust the operation of the cutoff mechanism at the front end.

  • A wire link had been put across the terminals of a relay switch. This defeated a number of safety features on the harvester, including the cutoff switch attached to the driver’s seat designed to cut the operation of the machine if the driver was not sitting in the seat.

  • The harvester had been operated with the safety features disabled since 2009. Further investigation revealed that the safety features on another machine had also been deliberately defeated in 2011.

  • The company had failed to identify the risks of operating harvesting machines, failed to implement safe systems of work regarding maintenance and inspection, failed to train machine operators and their supervisors properly and failed to protect employees from access to dangerous parts of the machines.

It had also failed to make sure that the machines were maintained safely and regularly checked.

The company was fined £67,000 plus £33,000 costs for a breach of section 2, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that agricultural machines were inherently dangerous. Agriculture has the second highest rate of deaths of all work sectors. In the last ten years, almost one person a week has been killed as a direct result of agricultural work.

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