Farm director gets fine after dangerous work at height

The director of a Shropshire dairy farm has been prosecuted after he failed to protect both himself and others while working at height.

Shutt and Mansell Ltd director Phillip Mansell, 49, and a 22-year-old self-employed relief worker from Market Drayton, were both knocked unconscious after being lifted in the telescopic loader bucket to work on two molasses tanks when the incident happened on 30 September 2013.

Shrewsbury Magistrates’ Court heard today (12 Feb) how, while fitting a pipe to one of the tanks at Flashbrook Manor, Newport, the two men received a shock of 11,000 volts from overhead cables while working at height.

Both men slumped unconscious in the bucket, which was immediately brought back to ground level by the employee driving the telehandler.

The two suffered electrical burns and were taken to hospital. Mr Mansell has recovered and returned to work.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found it was normal working practice for the dairy farm to lift workers in the telehandler bucket to the top of the silage clamp when regular access was required.

The court heard the telehandler bucket was designed for general-purpose work, including shoveling/loading of feed, and was not designed for lifting people. There was no protection in place, such as rails, raised sides or an anti-tilt mechanism for stopping people falling out.

In addition there were no verbal or written checks on working at height in the telehandler, and the work was not planned.

Phillip Mansell, of Flashbrook Manor, Newport, was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay £1,495 in costs after pleading guilty to three breaches of section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Shutt and Mansell Ltd, of the same address, was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £800 in costs after admitting breaching Regulation 9(3) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Dr Marie-Louise Riley-Roberts said:

“A picture has emerged of a company that has failed to take measures to adequately control risks from working at height.

“There was a substantial and fundamental failure by the director to control the work to ensure it was effectively planned, supervised and carried out safely; and a failure to select the correct equipment to lift persons such as a purpose-made lifting platform. The failings of the company are directly attributable to actions of Mr Mansell.

“There was a very real risk of persons falling from height. It’s only down to luck that Mr Mansell and his co-worker, who were knocked unconscious, fell into the bucket and not out of it, otherwise we could be dealing with a tragic, double-fatal incident.”

In 2013/14, 27 agricultural workers were killed at work.