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December 15, 2009

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Farm fined GBP 65,000 criticised for “relaxed safety culture”

A well-known organic farm allowed the use of telehandler buckets as work platforms to become an “acceptable working practice” despite being in possession of a suitable riding platform.

Anthony Cripps, 57, was working as a part-time market gardener at Daylesford Hill Farm near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire. The farm is owned by the wife of the multi-millionaire industrialist Sir Anthony Bamford.

Mr Cripps was collecting elderflowers from hedgerows growing around the farm when the incident took place on 5 June 2007. He and a colleague were being transported across the farm, while standing inside the bucket of an agricultural telehandler. They had already used the vehicle as a work platform earlier in the day. As they travelled across the field, Mr Cripps fell backwards, out of the bucket, and underneath the vehicle’s front wheels. He suffered serious crush injuries and died at the scene.

The HSE’s investigation revealed that the farm owned a ridding platform, which could be attached to the arms of the telehandler to create a safe working platform. But the device needed repairs and instead of fixing it workers had been allowed to use the buckets of telehandlers to work at height. It was also discovered that the driver of the telehandler had not been trained to drive the vehicle.

Inspector Caroline Bird said: “This tragic incident highlights the dangers of lifting and carrying people in the buckets of telehandlers. However short the distance, or convenient the use, the buckets of telescopic handlers should never be used as a means of travel, or as a work platform. Only properly constructed and compatible working platforms meet health and safety standards.”

Daylesford Organic Farms Ltd appeared at Gloucester Crown Court on 11 December and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £65,000 and ordered to pay £27,500 in costs.

The firm has no previous convictions and told the court that it has banned this method of work and has subsequently bought suitable mobile working platforms. It has also provided training to staff to ensure they are qualified to drive vehicles on the site.

Inspector Bird added: “Sadly, a relaxed safety culture at this particular farm had meant that the practice of using telehandler buckets as work platforms had become an acceptable practice, despite the obvious risks. Consequently, the use of the bucket for collecting elderflower was not exceptional but, tragically for Anthony Cripps, it proved fatal.”

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