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March 1, 2011

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Falling bales fatally injured farmer’s friend

Failure to follow best practice on safe working with agricultural bales has cost a Leicestershire farmer his friend and £20,000.

Ian Nourish was moving round wrapped bales of silage from a stack at his farm near Illston on the Hill, with the help of family friend David Baker, on 20 January 2009.

Mr Nourish was using the right equipment to unstack the bales – a tractor with a spike attachment – but he went about the operation in the wrong way. HSE guidance INDG125 advises that bales be destacked in reverse order to how they were stacked. Mr Nourish, although he did remove the bales from top to bottom, did not do so in reverse order.

As he was removing the bales, the stack became unstable and three bales fell on top of Mr Baker, who was standing nearby. He suffered head and chest injuries and died at the scene.

Investigating HSE inspector Alison Cook told SHP: “Bales, when being stacked or destacked, will move with little momentum, so there should be no unnecessary people in the vicinity in case of settling, or collapse.”

Mr Nourish appeared before Market Harborough magistrates on 22 February and pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the HSWA 1974. He was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £5076 in costs.

In mitigation, he said he had not carried out the work in the way he did for any reason of profit or saving time, and that he had done the work in this way for many years without incident.

Said inspector Cook: “Mr Baker’s death shows how easy it is for an everyday activity on a farm to lead to tragedy. Farming remains the most dangerous occupation in Britain, with 38 workers killed last year. Although only 1.5 per cent of the working population works in agriculture, the industry accounts for one in five work-related deaths every year.

“Each death or injury leaves a trail of misery and suffering for individuals and farming families. These incidents don’t have to keep happening.”

The HSE’s award-winning ‘Make a promise’ campaign website features several case studies and stories from farmers who have experienced incidents in their working lives.

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