A farming business in east Suffolk has been fined for safety failings which led to a worker suffering serious injuries after a fall during a dangerous lifting operation.

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The 67-year-old Woodbridge man, who does not want to be named, was hospitalised for nine days with critical injuries after the accident at Mann Potatoes Partnership on November 5, 2012.

He suffered a broken shoulder blade, seven fractured ribs, two chipped vertebrae, a cracked pelvis and a serious head injury, which left him unable to work for four months.

Richard Mann, Alexis Mann and Christopher Mann, of Stangrove Hall Farm and Hill Farm in Alderton, were prosecuted for their roles in the partnership after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

They were jointly fined a total of £3,000 and ordered to pay combined costs of £993, individually pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector John Claxton said the worker could “easily have been killed”. “This incident illustrates the need for duty holders to ensure work at height is carefully planned and managed at all times,” he said.

“That includes exercising vigilance to ensure the correct procedures are followed.”

South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court heard that the injured man, who was employed by the family for 50 years, had been asked to retrieve seed potatoes from a shed at the farm.

He did this by standing on a box balanced on a forklift fork which was lifted by a colleague to a height of six metres. As he was being lowered, he stopped the box he was standing on became unsteady sending him tumbling three metres to the ground.

His colleague backed the forklift truck away and ran to find him lying unconscious on the floor.

The court was told that although a suitable system had been devised and appropriate training provided, no checks were carried out to ensure it was followed. Mr Claxton said: “Lifting someone as they stand in a box on the forks of a forklift should clearly have been recognised as an unsafe practice and the onus was on the business partners to prohibit such a system of work.”

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