Category Archives: Farm Worker Accidents

Health and Fire Services Issue Warning to Farmers on the Dangers of Slurry Pits

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) and the Fire Service have issued a fresh warning to farmers in the area about the dangers of slurry pits on their property, and the risk that they pose to themselves, their workers and their livestock.

The warning comes as a result of the HSENI and the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) having been classed to rescue four animals that had fallen into uncovered slurry pits so far this year. This loss of livestock may be financially damaging to farmers, but these cases pose as an example of the danger of death present for the farmers themselves, their families and farm employees.

Slurry pit related accidents is one of the four top causes of death and injury in Northern Irish farms. Farmers and farm employees are at risk of being overcome by the toxic gas released from the slurry during mixing, and falling into the pit or openings in the tanks.

NIFRS’ Group Commander-Fergal Leonard-issued this statement on the dangers of slurry pits:

“For Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, public safety is our priority and the best course of action is through prevention. At this time of year, slurry is being removed from the pits and used as fertiliser on the fields. This can be hazardous if the slurry pit is not properly ventilated during mixing operations and storage lids are not replaced immediately after filling a tanker. We would appeal for farmers to be vigilant in ensuring the access hatches into slurry pits are secure and well maintained”.

The leader of the Farm Safety Team at the HSENI-Malcom Downey-echoed his sentiments: “Before mixing slurry, always stop and think about the job ahead and make preparations to complete the entire task safely. You must cover all the openings and keep children and animals well away during the mixing process.”

He further stated: “Stay out for 30 minutes after starting mixing or after moving or re-directing the pump and try to mix on a windy day. Do not take any chances when mixing slurry, you are risking your own life and the lives of others as well as putting your livestock in danger.”

Dairy Farmed Prosecuted for Breach of Health and Safety Law

A dairy farmer in Armagh has been fined £1,000 for a breach of health and safety laws which resulted in injury to one of his employees.

In June 2015, an anonymous farm worker was helping to construct a fence on land owned by the dairy farmer – David Murphy – when his left leg was impaled by one of the prongs of a silage buckrake that fell from the front of a telescopic materials handler.

An investigation was launched into the circumstances surrounding the accident and injury to a worker at a dairy, which revealed that there had been a breach of Article 4 of the Health and Safety at Work Order (NI) 1978, and Murphy was prosecuted by HSENI inspectors in charge of the case.

A hearing was held at the Armagh Magistrates´ Court, where Murphy pled guilty to the charge on causing an injury to a worker at a dairy and was fined £1,000.

Following the hearing, an inspector with HSENI’s Major Investigation Team – Kevin Campbell – said:“Farmers must ensure that proper systems are in place to prevent employees being injured. In addition, the correct equipment must be used and be maintained in good working order. Any misuse of equipment, or the wrong choice of machinery has the potential for things to go wrong, resulting in serious injury, as was the case in this totally preventable accident.”

Proportion of Agriculture Related Workplace Fatalities Decreases from 2014

The proportion of workplace deaths taken up by agriculture related accidents has decreased from the same period in 2014.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has released a report revealing that, in total, fifty-five employees died in Ireland in 2015 as a result of workplace related injuries.The total number of workplace fatalities in Ireland in 2015 was the same as seen in 2014. However, significant changes in the distribution of fatal accidents at work. Fatalities in agriculture accounted for eighteen reported deaths in 2015, just over half of the number seen in 2014 (30 deaths). This figure included the deaths of three children who were struck by falling objects or moving vehicles.

In contrast, construction related workplace fatalities in Ireland increased from eight in 2014 to eleven in 2015. The fishing industry also saw an increase in fatal accidents from one in 2014 to five in 2015.

Around two-thirds of work-related deaths occurred in small businesses (fewer than ten employees) or where those who died were self-employed–mainly in the agriculture, construction, and fishing industries.

The report also released figures relating to cause of death. Twenty-one of the workplace fatalities in Ireland were related to accidents involving moving vehicles, while fifteen employees were killed as a result of a fall from height and thirteen others died as a result of being crushed or trapped by machinery. Drowning was the main cause of the remaining workplace deaths.

The Assistant Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority – Brian Higgisson – said the Authority will be looking for further improvements and reductions in accidents during 2016. He said in a press release: “All work-related deaths are tragic and while we must cautiously welcome the reduction in agriculture fatalities, it is still the most dangerous occupation and that needs to change. There are high levels of safety and health awareness in Irish workplaces and we must ensure that this translates to changes in behaviour and fewer accidents in all the sectors this year.”

Mr Higgisson continued: “We will continue to direct resources to the high-risk sectors, but health issues such as those caused by exposure to asbestos, dust, noise and manual handling are also major risks in the workplace. These hazards account for more working days lost than injuries and we intend to increase our focus on these topics during 2016.”

HSE Report Released Regarding Fatality Rates in Industry

The HSE has compiled and released their provisional annual report regarding fatal accidents in the workplace, highlighting which industries are the most dangerous for its workers.

Figures in a provisional annual report compiled by the HSE shows that between April 2014 and March 2015, 142 employees died in accidents at work. This is an increase from the previous year’s figure of 136-an all-time low. These numbers represent a rate of 0.46 fatalities per 100,000 workers. This is one of the lowest fatality rates among workers in many of the leading industrial nations.

Agriculture, recycling and construction all were among the most dangerous jobs for their workers Agriculture had the highest rate of 9.12 fatalities per 100,000 workers, and the number of fatal accidents last year increased from 27 to 33. The recycling industry had a rate of 4.31 fatalities per 100,000, with a total of five deaths last year. The latest figures show that in the construction industry, the total number of deaths fell from 44 to 35 between 2013/2014 and 2014/2015.

Judith Hackett commented on the report, stating that “It is disappointing last year’s performance on fatal injuries has not been matched, but the trend continues to be one of improvement. Our systems and our framework remain strong as demonstrated by our performance in comparison to other countries. Every fatality is a tragic event and our commitment to preventing loss of life in the workplace remains unaltered.  All workplace fatalities drive HSE to develop even more effective interventions to reduce death, injury and ill health”.

Also included in the report was figures for deaths due to mesothelioma cancer. The cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos, and is one of the only diseases that is due to working conditions that can be recorded. In 2013, 2,538 deaths were attributable to such exposure-a slight decrease from 2,548 deaths in 2012.

Company Found Guilty for Crane Accident Death

A manufacturing company has been found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, causing the death of one of its employees in a crane accident.

In July 2011, Michael Wickstead (63) of Greater Manchester was employed for Refinery Supplies Ltd. At the time of the accident, Michael had been working on manufacturing a three-tonne steel container, which was resting on a stand that was secured in place by chains hanging from an overhead crane. One of his colleagues was moving another container with an overhead crane when the two cranes collided in the air. The collision caused the container on which Michael was working to fall, crushing him underneath it.

Michael’s injuries proved fatal. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into his death, and the work environment and circumstances surrounding it. When the investigation was complete, it was revealed that there was no clear working system implemented to ensure that the employees were not at risk of being involved in crane accidents, and there was no safety mechanism implemented-such as anti-collision devices-to prevent the two cranes from crashing into each other.

Refinery Supplies Ltd-who specialise in manufacturing equipment for the lead and zinc refining industry-were prosecuted with a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by the HSE. At the Manchester Crown Court, representatives from the company pleaded guilty to the charges and for failing to ensure that the necessary precautions were implemented to prevent such deaths. The company was fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 in costs.

The HSE Inspector involved with the case-Helen Jones-said:

“Michael sadly lost his life because the safety standards of his employer fell well below the minimum legal standards. “Refinery Supplies knew there was a risk of cranes colliding at the factory and, in fact, this had happened on several previous occasions without the same catastrophic result. However, the firm failed to take any action to make sure workers weren’t put at risk of being injured”.

“It’s vital that manufacturers carefully consider the dangers facing their employees and then implement safety improvements. If Refinery Supplies had done this then Michael’s tragic death could have been avoided.”

HSE Prosecutes Farm For Safety Failings

A dairy farm in Durham have been fined by the Magistrate’s Court after being prosecuted by the HSE for safety failings which resulted in an employee sustaining injuries after falling from a height.

In September 2013, Simon Atkinson (41) of Dipton, County Durham, was unloading empty milk bottles from a lorry and placing them into a storage area 1.6 metres below ground level at his local Lanchester Dairies site. Simon was working alone at the time of the incident.

While working, Simon slipped and fell through the opening of the storage area-landing on the concrete surface below him. Due to the force of the impact, Simon fractured his eye socket, and sustained several fractures to his collar bone. He also broke one of his ribs.

When he was transported to hospital, it was revealed that Simon was bleeding in his skull. He had to be put into an induced coma to remove a blood clot that had formed at the side of his brain, and he was unable to return to work while waiting for further surgery to repair damage to his spine.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident. They found that no safety measures had been taken to prevent a fall from height accident on the dairy farm, despite a risk assessment having been conducted which had notified the owners of the farm there a risk of a fall existed.

The HSE proceeded to prosecute Lanchester Dairies Ltd under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and, at Peterlee Magistrates Court, the company pleaded guilty. They admitted that they failed to implement a safe system of work and training for the unloading task.

It was revealed that there had been a fixed barrier across the doorway to the storage area two years prior to the incident, but it had been removed and never replaced. Had such a device been in place at the time of the accident, it is likely that Simon would not have sustained the injuries that he did.

Lanchester Dairies Ltd were fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,690 in legal costs by the Magistrates. The HSE inspector involved in the case-Michael Kingston-commented that the company had been aware of the risks associated with the unloading operation, and had neglected to implement the simple and inexpensive measure to prevent a fall from height accident on their farm, resulting in Simon’s injury.

Electrical Contractor Fined for Fall on a Farm Accident

Gregg Electrical has been fined £2,000 for breaching health and safety legislation that resulted in one of his apprentices falling from the roof of a barn.

In June 2013, an unnamed teenager (sixteen years old at the time of the incident) was working as an apprentice for Austin Gregg (trading as Gregg Electrical). He was working with another apprentice and Gregg himself when they were employed to install solar panels on the roof of a bran located at Leyburn Farm, North Yorkshire.

The teenager was asked to retrieve a tool from the roof of the barn on which the solar panels were installed. The teenager neglected to put a harness on to perform the supposedly simple task. While he was on the roof, the teenager stumble and fell through a partially covered roof light onto the concrete floor metres below.

The apprentice only suffered from severe bruising from his fall, despite the height from which he fell. A HSE investigation was launched into the incident, and it was discovered that Gregg had taken inadequate precautions in ensuring that an accident of this nature would not occur. Inspectors from the HSE determined that, even if the apprentice had used a safety harness, the fixing points for it were inadequate and had not been properly tested.

The Northallerton Magristrate’s Court fined the electrical contracted £2,000 with £505 in costs for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. As of yet, no injury claim for compensation for the fall form height accident on the farm has been filed by the apprentice. Since the teenager was sixteen years of age at the time of the incident, he has three years from his eighteenth birthday during which he could claim compensation for his injuries according to the Statute of Limitations for accidents such as this.

Combine Harvester Manufacturer Found Guilty of Negligence

The manufacturer of a combine harvester which crushed a man’s fingers-John Deere Ltd-has been found guilty of negligence in designing the machine.

In June 1995, Denis Scollard (thirty years old at the time of the accident) was employed for the agricultural contractors Thomas and William Wright. He was working for various farmers in County Limerick, collecting silage and operating a John Deere 6810 combine harvester.

While operating this piece of machinery, a grass blockage occurred. Denis attempted to clear the obstacle via the inspection hatch. As he was doing so, the combine harvester’s paddles came down inside the chute, crushing the fingers on Denis’ left hand.

After receiving treatment for his injury, Denis sought legal counsel, and made a combine harvester injury claim in 1996 against his employers and received €430,000 in personal injury compensation. Thomas and William Wright subsequently made a claim against the companies from whom the machine was leased and supplied to recover what they had paid to their employee.

The leasing company-AIB Finance and Leasing-and the supplies-Geary’s Garage Ltd-in turn sought indemnity from John Deere Ltd who manufactured the combine harvester which injured Denis.

The manufacturer denied liability for Denis’ injuries, arguing that the accident could not have occurred as claimed as the paddles would not have crushed Denis’ fingers if he had followed the instructions published in the combine harvester’s manual.

They claimed that there was no scientific basis to explain how the paddles could have moved if Denis had disengaged the engine of the combine harvester as he claimed that he had. Despite their defence, Ms Justice Mary Irvine found in favour of AIB Finance & Leasing and Geary’s Garage after hearing evidence from two eye witnesses and a medical expert in the High Court in December 2007.

The judge ruled that John Deere Ltd had been negligent by “designing, manufacturing and selling a combine harvester with a design defect”. They were ordered to settle the injury claim; commenting that Denis´ injuries would have been far worse if the engine of the combine harvester had been engaged.

The decision was appealed by John Deere Ltd, and last week the case was heard at the Supreme Court before Mr Justice Frank Clarke. The judge upheld the High Court’s verdict that Denis’ injuries were a foreseeable consequence of negligence. They ordered John Deere Ltd to reimburse the €430,000 paid in settlement of Denis’ combine harvester injury claim.