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.