A Cumbria farming partnership has been fined £100,000 after an employee suffered fatal head injuries when he was knocked over by a tractor.
Carlisle Crown Court heard how JS Wood and Son had failed to segregate pedestrians and vehicles at the busy Wragmire Bank Farm, in Cumwhinton, where the incident happened on 26 January 2017.
Investigating HSE inspector, Matthew Tinsley, told Safety Management that the deceased, a 57-year-old man who reared calves at the farm where he had worked for several years, had walked out of the calf shed through its sliding door onto the main traffic route. He was struck by a tractor carrying a trailer of straw, which was not traveling at unusual or excessive speed.
“It probably was the riskiest area for a pedestrian vehicle collision on the farm in terms of people coming out of the shed into the traffic route,” he said.
The firm hadn’t carried out an effective risk assessment of the transport and identified that they needed control measures.
“It was a busy farm. There were five employees and 12 vehicles, with the relative number of vehicle movements that should have been taken into account with a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.”
“They needed to look at establishing a package of controls for the workplace; signage, having a set speed limit, but the crucial one is segregation and demarcation which they hadn’t got,” he continued.
The deceased had also been partially deaf and used a hearing aid, although this wasn’t a known factor in the cause of death, it should have been considered as part of the risk assessment.
JS Wood and Son made improvements to the route following the incident, adding a railing to stop pedestrians walking straight out of the cowshed. “It means anyone coming out of that sliding door is delayed, they have to stop, open the gate in the railing and then step out. It just forces them to take that bit longer.”
A second doorway towards the back of the farm was also sealed up. “They put a route through the back of the building so no-one needs to walk out.” They also added a second railing on the opposite side, explained Tinsley.
In applying the sentencing guidelines, the judge acknowledged the improvements as mitigating factors, but still determined that the appropriate starting point was at top end of the range for its category, said Tinsley.
The judge began at £150k starting point for a micro company, nearly the very top of the range for this category which is £160k.
“Although the turnover was relatively low, the judge took account of the assets and for that reason he started towards the higher end of the range and applied the discount for the early guilty plea.”
The offence was medium culpability, harm level A because the seriousness of harm risked was death. The judge moved the offence up from harm category 2 to 1 because the offence was a significant cause of actual harm.
JS Wood & Son of Cumwhinton, Carlisle was ordered to pay £100,000 plus costs of £7,310.80 for breaching Regulation 17(1) of the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
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