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July 28, 2014

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Farmers’ co-op forks out massive fine after worker’s death

A Southminster farmers’ co-operative has been ordered to pay nearly £130,000 following the death of a worker who was killed when the tailgate of a hydraulic trailer fell and struck him across the neck.

The tragedy follows three previous prosecutions for the company after incidents which resulted in a worker’s arm being amputated, a second worker breaking an arm in a conveyor and a third worker suffering burns while operating the bagging plant.

The most recent prosecution, which was heard at Chelmsford Crown Court on 25 July, concerned the death of David Dow, 63, of Cedar Grove, Burnham-on-Crouch, who had leaned into the back of a tipper trailer to talk to a colleague inside when the tailgate closed suddenly, causing him fatal crush injuries.

His employer, Dengie Crops Ltd, which produces animal feeds, was prosecuted by HSE after an investigation found the procedure for fitting the tailgates was unsafe and the company did not have effective measures in place to manage health and safety at their premises.

It was heard that tailgate extensions were being fitted on three trailers to equip them to collect crops from the fields and deliver to site to be dried and processed.

Mr Dow, who had worked for the firm for eight years, was not involved in the fitting of the tailgates, but had approached the third trailer to speak to colleagues who were carrying out the work.

The trailer had just been fitted with its tailgate extension when Mr Dow leant into it to talk with a colleague who was checking the fitting from the inside. He was unaware that another worker in the tractor cab had just operated the controls to close the tailgate. The tailgate closed so quickly Mr Dow did not have time to react to the warning and duck out. He died at the scene from his injuries.

The court was told that the fatal incident could easily have been avoided had barriers been in place around the trailer to prevent unauthorised access.

HSE found that not only had the company failed to devise and implement a safe system of work for fitting tailgate extensions, but a number of dangerous practices were happening routinely throughout the site.

For instance, CCTV cameras filmed an employee standing on a stack of pallets to clean equipment in the vicinity of reversing lorries at around the same time as Mr Dow was fatally injured.

HSE served a number of enforcement notices on Dengie Crops Ltd to address the safety failings.

Dengie Crops Ltd, of Hall Road, Asheldham, Southminster, Essex, was fined a total of £100,000 and ordered to pay £28,437 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

After the hearing, HSE principal inspector Vicky Fletcher said: “The tragic death of David Dow could easily have been avoided had Dengie Crops Ltd properly considered the risks associated with the installation of the tailgate extensions and put simple and low cost safety measures in place, such as safety barriers around the trailer during the work.

“This unsafe system of work went unchecked by a company that had failed to put in place robust arrangements for managing health and safety, despite having been prosecuted by HSE on three previous occasions.

“This incident should serve as a reminder that employers need to ensure they have adequate measures in place to manage health and safety at their workplace. In particular, they should always adequately assess the risk of non-routine operations to ensure suitable precautions are taken.”

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