Farmers fined �75,000 over crush death of worker

A FATHER and son who run an agricultural business have been ordered to pay �75,000 following the death of a 24-year-old man who was killed in an accident on their farm.

Agricultural worker Sam Foley, of Newmarket, suffered fatal chest injuries when, while trying to tip manure at a farm at Snetterton, near Attleborough, Norfolk, the tow ring broke.

The drawbar crashed through the rear of his cab and crushed him on July 8, 2007.

Timothy Wyatt, 66, of Grange Farm, Snetterton, and his son Jonathan, 31, of Grange Farm Cottages, North End, Snetterton, appeared at Norwich Crown Court yesterday to be sentenced after both pleaded guilty to breaching a section of the Health and Safety at Work Act – failing to ensure the health and safety employees.

The men, who together run farming and haulage firm Pearn Wyatt and Son, which employs up to 14 people, were fined a total of �21,000 and ordered to pay Health and Safety Executive (HSE) costs of �54,000.

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The court had heard that the tow ring on the Richard Weston trailer, made in 1981, had previously broken. It had been welded, with the repair making it weaker.

Adam Budworth, prosecuting, said: “The ring’s ability to withstand the everyday stresses and strains of use as an agricultural piece of equipment was clearly compromised.

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“Whatever the precise level of compromise matters little in the matrix of failures that occurred on this day when it failed, when carrying out what could only be described as a regular and routine agricultural task.”

Mr Budworth added that the trailer, which had surface and parking brakes which had been “inoperative” for some time as well as a missing wheel nut on one of the offside wheels, was inappropriate for this type of load.

James Candlin, mitigating, said his clients accepted that there should have been in place a “proper system of analysis of the equipment to which workers were going to be exposed” including the trailer, which had been used to carry grain for the first 17 or 18 years of its life.

He said: “They accept there should have been a systematic risk assessment. We didn’t do any of these things because we had a blind spot about a piece of equipment that was used primarily by the two partners.”

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Jacobs said there were “no winners” and just “angst all round” in the case stating that the defendants were “decent men, not a pair of cowboys” but that a fine had to be imposed to mark the “gravity of the matter”.

He said: “What we would all like to do is go back to the day before this happened, but we can’t. I simply deal with this on the basis that it was all very tragic. It’s a lapse in inspection and the consequences were not appreciated by anybody.”

Judge Jacobs said there were cases in which firms had shown a “blatant disregard” for health and safety law, but added that this was not so on this occasion. He added: “It’s all about ability to pay. It’s no good at all to destroy this business by imposing over stringent amounts endangering their own welfare and that of the people they employ.”

Speaking after the case Malcolm Crowther, an HSE inspector, said: “This sad death of a young man in his early 20s should never have happened. In this case, it was down to Pearn Wyatt and Son to ensure the equipment was maintained properly and safe for the farm workers to use – something the company did not do.”

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