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August 14, 2014

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Conditional discharge for farmer after worker’s horrific injuries

HSE has urged farm managers and owners to ensure maintenance is planned properly and safe systems of work implemented after a horrific accident at an Ellesmere farm.

A worker suffered serious arm, head and back injuries while unblocking a grain-drying machine in an incident that took place in September 2013.

George Edward Jones, 66, of Hordley, Shropshire pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach at Telford Magistrates’ Court on 13 August and received a two-year conditional discharge.

The court heard how a 27-year-old worker from Shropshire, who asked not to be named, was attempting to remove a blockage of wet grain inside the machine at GH and DP Jones’ Red Hall Farm. The blockage was close to an auger screw, a large powered metal component used for distributing grain through the machine. 

HSE, which brought the prosecution, said that the worker and his boss, farm owner George Jones, accessed the top of the grain dryer by ducking between the wooden bars of a second floor fence. Power to the auger screw was switched off and an unsuccessful attempt to unblock it using wooden poles was made.

Sometime later, the farm worker knelt down and started to unblock the machine using his hand. However, another employee turned the power to the auger screw back on and the worker was drawn into the machine. His arm was pulled under the auger screw and his torso and head were wedged between the screw and the trough it sits in. 

Mr Jones shouted for the machine to be switched off, but the entanglement had caused the mechanism to fail and the auger screw stopped turning. 

The court was told the worker was struggling to breathe as he was trapped underneath the auger until colleagues lifted it and cut the auger away with an angle grinder.

The man suffered severe lacerations to his arm, head and back. He required 44 stitches and 73 staples and needed a blood transfusion. He also suffered a fractured shoulder blade and damaged tendons in his right hand.

He was off work for more than six weeks but has since been able to return to work.

George Edward Jones, 66, of Hordley, Shropshire, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was sentenced to a two-year conditional discharge with £1,091 costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Kivlin said: “This man is very lucky to be alive after suffering horrific injuries following an incident which was entirely preventable.

“Farm managers and owners should ensure maintenance is planned properly and safe systems of work implemented.

“Approximately 40 per cent fatal incidents involving agricultural machinery occur during unplanned maintenance activities.”

For further guidance on the safe use of agricultural machinery, go to www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/topics/machinery.htm 

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