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  • Writer's pictureRobert Spicer

The Little Book of Health and Safety Horrors Part 9: Farms


Leg amputation

In July 2014 an employee of Clynderwen and Cardiganshire Farmers Ltd entered a wheat silo to clear a blockage. The rotating auger in the silo pulled him into the silo. His clothing was caught and he was pulled further into the silo. He suffered serious lacerations to his leg, which was later amputated. There was inadequate instruction and training on the electrical and mechanical isolation of the auger. The auger was not adequately isolated. The company was fined £10,000 plus £1300 costs.

Eight-year old farm boy: leg amputation

In October 2015 an eight-year old boy was sitting on the back of an all-terrain vehicle on his parents’ farm in Kirkbean, Scotland. The vehicle was being used to cut grass. The boy fell from the vehicle and suffered serious leg injuries. The leg was amputated below the knee. The driver of the vehicle had not been trained in its use and the company which operated the farm had allowed the boy to ride on it on previous occasions. The company which operated the farm was fined £10,000. It had taken no action to ensure that the boy was kept separate from the farm’s business activities.

Three-year old farm boy seriously injured

Four members of a farming family were fined in May 2015following an incident in which a three-year old boy was injured. In September 2013 a three year old boy climbed onto the first floor of a barn at a farm in Derbyshire. His foot was drawn into an auger. He suffered deep lacerations which needed plastic surgery. The auger was being used by the family to move grain around. It was guarded but the guard was not designed for the dimensions of a child.

Death from barbed wire

In February 2015 Adrian Pickett was contracted to carry out hedge cutting for James Headland at a farm. Pickett was using a rotary flail hedge cutter. A piece of barbed wire shot from the machine. It struck Headland in the neck, causing fatal injuries. Pickett had failed to ensure his own safety and that of others by following a safe system of work. His maintenance of the equipment and correct use of guards for the work activity were also faulty. He was sentenced to 80 hours of community service and ordered to pay £6500 costs.

Tractor death

In July 2009 Thomas Phizacklea, an employee of Stuart Webster, was working at a farm in South Lakeland. He was found dead under the wheel of a tractor. The tractor was 27 years old. It was in poor condition. The handbrake did not function. The most likely explanation for the fatality was that Phizacklea had left the tractor running in neutral without the handbrake on as he got out of the cab to walk around the vehicle. His body was found trapped between the front offside wheel of the tractor and a mound of earth. Webster had a legal duty to ensure that work could be carried out safely on his farm. He should have kept up the maintenance of the tractor or taken it of use altogether .He was fined £20,000 plus £29,000 costs.

Dumper truck death

William Friend and Robert Plume, directors of Wedgewood Buildings Ltd were given suspended prison sentences in December 2014 following the death of a worker when a dumper truck overturned. The company was contracted to expand a pond on a farm near Tiverton, Devon .Daniel Whiston was driving a dumper truck to move spoil around the site. The truck overturned and crushed Whiston, causing fatal injuries. The deceased had been given 30 minutes training by a colleague who had not been trained to teach other workers and was not competent to supervise him. The dumper truck had a number of serious defects. These included steering failure and defective brakes. No sufficient risk assessments had been undertaken for the work and there was no safe system of work.

Death of migrant worker by electrocution

In July 2006 Gerard Faltynowski, a Polish migrant worker, was helping to build a polytunnel in a field near Blairgowrie in Scotland. The polytunnel was placed below three overhead power lines carrying 11,000 volts. Faltynowski had slotted thirteen poles, each one half a metre in length, and was carrying them vertically. The pole touched the cables. He was killed instantly.

Severed fingers and thumb

In February 2014 an assistant farm manager was operating a firewood processing machine which comprised a circular saw, log splitter and conveyor. In the course of splitting a log, his left hand became caught between the log and the splitting wedge. All the fingers and thumb of his left hand were severed. The machine had recently been supplied. It did not comply with the relevant British standard and was not safe to use.

Pheasant shoot: all-terrain vehicle death

In October 2013 James Gaffney was driving an all-terrain vehicle to collect dead game following a pheasant shoot on the Urra sporting and farming estate in North Yorkshire.He was not wearing a seatbelt. The vehicle overturned and he suffered fatal head injuries. No-one had used the seatbelt on the vehicle because they had not been instructed to do so.

Tractor death

In June 2009 Kim Webb, aged 26, was working on a farm near North Cadbury in Somerset. She was driving a tractor on a sloping field. The tractor had no seat belt, cab or roll over bar. Ms Webb was checking cattle in a number of fields. The tractor rolled over twice and crushed Ms Webb, causing fatal injuries. The tractor had no rollover protection. Brake pedals on the tractor could not be linked together. This made it unsuitable for road driving. There was a lack of suitable and sufficient risk assessments for the type of work being carried out. There was no safe system of work for the tasks which employees were required to carry out using the tractor. No effective training had been provided. There had been a failure of management control, oversight and supervision in relation to use of the tractor. Ms Webb’s supervisor had no formal training qualifications to instruct her in the use of the tractor. The company had allowed the tractor to be used without a roll bar and had failed to monitor the use of the tractor in a sloping field.

Drowning in grain bin

In July 2014 Arthur Mason, an employee of a farm company, was cleaning inside grain bins at a farm run by the company. He stood directly on the stored grain. He was wearing a harness with a fall-arrest lanyard which was secured to a fixed ladder inside the bin.He began to sink into the grain and the forces involved caused the lanyard to unravel and extend. He became engulfed in the grain and died from drowning.The employing company had failed to adequately identify and manage the risks associated with cleaning grain stores. There was no safe system of work and no-one had been trained in how to complete the work safely.

Machine death

In May 2009 George Stokes, a farmer, was preparing a McHale square bale wrapping machine for the grass cutting season. He was found dead, slumped over the machine.The machine’s safety trip bar had not been designed to stop the rotating baling arms in sufficient time. This meant that anyone who activated the safety trip bar was at risk of being struck.

The failure of the trip bar to stop the rotating bale wrapping arms to stop meant that Stokes had suffered fatal head injuries.

Fatal fall from height

David William McVey employed William Sproat, a casual worker, in August 2012 to repair a storm damaged shed roof on a farm.McVey and Sproat accessed the roof using ladders. Sproat fell 18 feet through the roof to the concrete floor below. He suffered fatal injuries.Neither man was wearing a safety harness. There was no edge protection and McVey had taken no measure to prevent or mitigate a fall from height.

Farm explosion death

In May 2010 Peter James, an employee of Cantelo Nurseries Ltd,, was working at a nursery on a farm near Taunton. He was told to unbolt a hatch cover from a pressurised tank used to heat greenhouses. There was still pressure in the system. A release of pressure sent the hatch cover flying. It struck James, causing fatal injuries. Three other workers suffered serious injuries. The work had not been properly planned, workers had not been properly trained or supervised, and one of them spoke very little English and found it difficult to understand instructions. The hatch should not have been removed until all the pressure had been safely released from the system.

Trampling incident

In June 2013 Emma Smith was walking on a public footpath at a farm near Helston in Cornwall. She was trampled by cows belonging to Jonathan Bryant. She suffered life-threatening injuries including punctured lungs and multiple fractures.The path was well-used by local people. Bryant had not assessed the risk to walkers by putting cows with calves in the field adjoining the path.

Death and injury from cows

In May 2013 Mike Porter and his brother John were walking with dogs on a pubic footpath through a field near Bradford on Avon. Cows with calves were grazing in the field. The animals belonged to Brian Godwin.Mike Porter died from crush injuries caused by cattle trampling him. His brother suffered multiple rib fractures, a punctured lung and general contusions.Godwin had not taken reasonable precautions to protect members of the public walking on footpaths through his fields, from his cattle.The incident was the fourth in five years involving injuries to members of the public caused by Godwin’s cattle.

Straw bales crushing injuries

A 20-year old veterinary student was on a work placement at RL Matson& Sons’ stud farm in Shropshire. She was collecting hay for horses’ troughs when she was struck by four falling straw bales which weighed more than 1.2 tonnes. The student suffered multiple crushing injuries including a fractured pelvis and ankle. The bales had to be removed using a telehandler. The incident could have been prevented if the bales had been properly stacked without risk of collapse. HSE records show that since 2000, 18 deaths have resulted from being struck by falling bales.

Death from drowning

In September 2011 Luke Yardy drowned when he fell from a boat while trying to retrieve the carcase of a bird from a lake in Cambridgeshire.Yardy had been engaged by a farming partnership to undertake pest and predator control. He was not supplied with a life jacket nor had he receive any training in the use of boats.His brother attempted to rescue Yardy but he also drowned.

All-terrain vehicle head injuries

The fiancée of a director of a farming company lost control of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) at one of the company’s farms in mid-Devon. The ATV crashed and rolled and threw her to the road. She was not wearing a helmet and suffered life-changing head injuries. The company failed to report the incident. The ATV was described by a police vehicle examiner as being in a dangerous and unroadworthy condition with longstanding defects to its brakes and steering.The woman had been given no formal training in the use of an ATV and no helmet was available for her.

Potato crusher hand injuries

In June 2009 a casual worker, who wished to remain anonymous, was helping Timothy Dean, a farmer, with the potato harvest. A potato crusher, designed and built by Grimme (UK) Ltd, had been fitted to a potato harvester. The crusher was frequently blocked with stones. Workers signalled the harvester driver to isolate power on the machine while they reached into the crusher to clear the blockage.The casual worker reached into the machine, thinking that the power had been isolated. It had not. His hand was caught in the machinery. He suffered three severed tendons in his right hand. Grimme had supplied the crusher to Dean. Defects were found in the machine. There was no safety guard to stop people from accessing the dangerous moving parts and no instruction manual had been provided. Dean had not properly assessed the risks entailed in the work and did not have a safe system of work for the farm workers.

Arm amputation in potato grading machine

In November 2013 Marek Walisewski, a Polish worker, was cleaning the rollers of a potato grading machine at a farm in Staffordshire. The farm was operated by WB Daw & Son.His duties included operating, cleaning and clearing blockages on the machine. He sat down under the rollers to clean them while they were moving, using a long screwdriver. The rollers drew his left arm into the machine. The crush injuries resulted in his arm having to be amputated. Unsafe work systems were being used which involved cleaning and clearing blockages from the rollers while they were rotating under power.The company had failed to give clear instructions to workers and failed to monitor their activities.

Grain bin asphyxiation

In August 2014 Zach Dean Fox, aged 19, was working at Seamore Farming’s farm in Hawick. He was trying to clear a blockage in a large metal container used for grain storage. The blockage was in an exit space at the bottom of the bin which still contained a quantity of grain. He became immersed in free-flowing grain and died from asphyxiation. The system of work in place to clear blockages in the bin was inherently unsafe.

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