Man who died in farming tragedy had not followed safety rules, inquest hears

Suffolk Coroners Court at Beacon House, White House Road, Ipswich Picture: ADAM HOWLETT

Suffolk Coroners Court at Beacon House, White House Road, Ipswich Picture: ADAM HOWLETT - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk tractor driver who died after he was crushed by a piece of farm machinery had not followed safety guidelines, an inquest has heard.

Darren Prentice, 42, of Kiln Cottages, Rede, died on April 17 while he was using a tractor-pulled de-stoner machine to prepare a field for potato seeding on the Rushbrooke Estate near Bury St Edmunds.

An inquest on Monday heard fellow farm worker Tommy Bevan had spotted Mr Prentice’s tractor had been stationary for around 20 minutes so went to investigate, discovering him pinned beneath a metal bar at the rear of machine.

Mr Prentice was released using a disc cutter but died of his injuries at the scene.

The inquest heard it was likely Mr Prentice had been removing a blockage from the de-stoner with a spade when the accident occurred and had not followed ‘safe stop’ procedures - where workers are told to make sure the key has been removed from their vehicle before carrying out maintenance.

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An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) concluded Fornham Growers Ltd, who Mr Prentice was working for, had carried out all appropriate risk assessments and maintenance on the vehicles.

Jessica Churchyard, from the HSE, said other employees she had interviewed said the firm was ‘very strict’ on matters of health and safety.

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She said the company had even put stickers in all of the tractor cabs warning drivers of the ‘safe stop’ procedure.

Assistant coroner Dr Dan Sharpstone said: “Fornham Growers trained its staff fully.

“They had no reason to believe Darren Prentice would not use these procedures.

“I am going to enter a conclusion of an accidental death.”

Speaking to Mr Prentice’s family, he added: “It was a tragic accident and you have our condolences.”

A spokesman for the National Farmers’ Union said: “We are sorry to hear about this tragic accident and our thoughts are with Mr Prentice’s family and friends.

“Sadly, accidents involving vehicles are the most common cause of fatal injuries within agriculture.

“Transport and machinery safety is one of the key areas that the cross-industry Farm Safety Partnership is focusing on to improve this situation.”

“The partnership has set a target of reducing the number of farming fatalities by at least 50% by the summer of 2023, with the ultimate ambition of reaching a point where there are no deaths in the farming industry.”

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