Farm’s failure to undertake risk assessment leads to fatal accident

The agriculture industry has one of the worst fatal accident and occupational ill health records of any major employment sector. The four most common types of accidents on farms involve vehicles and machinery, falling from height, lifting and handling and hazardous substances. This means it is important to be proactive about health and safety on a farm and properly manage risks, so accidents can be avoided – this is why it is vital to undertake risk assessments.

For Wragmire Bank farm, a risk assessment hadn’t been completed and it led to a fatal accident involving a worker. The farm employee, who was 70 per cent deaf and wore a hearing aid, reared calves as his main job. He stepped out of a livestock shed and directly into the path of a tractor which was towing a straw-laden trailer as it travelled through a narrow passageway which ran between buildings on the busy dairy farm.

J Wood & Son reported the incident immediately and admitted to the health and safety breach which it was later charged with. It accepted failing to ensure that the farm workplace “was organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles could circulate in a safe manner.” The case went to Carlisle Crown Court and it was found that the tractor driver was not at any at fault. The prosecutor told the court how a proper workplace risk assessment hadn’t been undertaken and, if an assessment had been done, it would have identified that the calf shed exits led directly into the main traffic route, which created “the highest risk area.” A risk assessment would have also found that the worker had hearing difficulties.

The farm partnership was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £7,310.80 in costs. Since the hearing, J Wood & Son has complied with improvement notices issued by the Health and Safety Executive, introduced speed limits and warning signs and also created a pedestrian walkway which has gone beyond its obligations.

Carrying out a risk assessment before any high-risk work is imperative as it helps to identify potential hazards and any difficulties a worker may have, which will avoid injury and ensure employees are working in a safe environment.