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.

Firm fined after worker seriously injured in scaffold fall

An Aberdeen-based building and joinery firm has been sentenced after a worker suffered serious injuries when he fell three metres from scaffolding that he was dismantling.

John William Wilson, then 47 and from Aberdeen, broke his left ankle, damaged the ligaments in his right ankle was knocked unconscious and cut his head. He was in hospital overnight and remained in plaster for six weeks as a result of his injuries.

The specialist Health and Safety Division of COPFS today prosecuted Mr Wilson’s employer, Rae Brown & Company Ltd, for health and safety breaches.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court was told that on 24 July 2012 Mr Wilson was asked by Rae Brown & Company to move the scaffolding and take it to another site. He and a colleague, an apprentice, arrived at the farmhouse owned by the partner of one of the company’s directors where two scaffolding towers had been erected.

The towers had been erected in a narrow space between the farmhouse and a garden wall so that general maintenance work could be carried out.

As Mr Wilson dismantled the structure he removed some elements which left the poles unstable. As the poles moved, the metal board he was standing on moved and fell, taking Mr Wilson with it.

An HSE investigation found that neither Mr Wilson nor the apprentice working alongside him had received any formal training in the use of the type of scaffolding they were asked to work with.

Rae Brown & Company Limited, of Rose Street in Aberdeen, was fined £4,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of Regulations 4 and 8 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Liz Hunter said:

“The risks from falls at height are well known in the construction industry. Erecting and dismantling scaffolds should only be done by trained and skilled persons or under the supervision of such a person because you cannot entirely eliminate the risk of falls.

“No such training or supervision was provided by Rae Brown and Company to Mr Wilson and his apprentice. They should never have been allowed to dismantle scaffolding that had been left unsecured and unsupported in this way.

“The correct method would have used competent erectors following the instructions in the scaffold manual, including safe ladder access and removal of components from below whilst working from a complete platform. The scaffold should have been erected on level ground that was free from debris and other trip hazards.

“As a result of the company’s failings, Mr Wilson sustained injuries that left him unable to work for 11 weeks and it was pure luck that the apprentice was not seriously hurt too.”

Falls from height are the biggest single cause of workplace deaths in the construction industry. Information on improving safety is available at HSE Health and Safety in the Construction Industry.