A turf company based in East Yorkshire has been sentenced by Hull Crown Court after a series of significant safety failings resulted in the death of an employee.
The worker, a 30 year old family man, suffered fatal crush injuries in September 2011 when a faulty turf harvester ran over him.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) led an investigation into the incident and revealed that the employee was walking alongside the harvester attempting to regulate the cut-off mechanism which had been problematic earlier on that day. He was hit, the machine continued to move and then hit a tree. The worker died at the scene.
The HSE told the court that several safety features of the harvester had been compromised because a wire link had been placed across the relay switch. This prevented the cut off device from working when the driver was not in his seat. Furthermore, the machine had been operated in this state since 2009.
Further investigation highlighted that another piece of machinery had been modified in the same way.
Additionally, the Court heard that the turf company had failed to perform risk assessments, ensure employees were appropriately trained in using the harvesting machines, provide protection from potentially dangerous parts of the equipment, service and maintain the vehicles and implement safe working practices.
Based on these findings the Hull Crown Court fined the company £67,000 and ordered to pay £33,000 in costs for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
After the case, HSE Inspector Andrea Jones said:
“It is essential that all employers with machines for use on farms and in the turf-cutting industry put systems in place for checking all safety guarding regularly, and provide training and supervision to make sure machines are not operated with missing or defeated safety functions. All operators must be trained in safe systems of work in relation to making adjustments and clearing blockages in machines.
“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.”