The owner of a Dorset farm has been fined along with his two businesses after a worker died following exposure to toxic gases.
Matthew Pitt, 29, was working at Lowbrook Farm, owned by Clifford Owen Yeatman, in Blandford Forum when the fatal incident occurred on 24 June 2009.
He was exposed to toxic hydrogen sulphide gas during maintenance of an anaerobic digestion plant at the farm.
Dorchester Crown Court heard how Mr Pitt and his colleague, David Bartlett, were tasked with opening the roof of the digester tank to free a stirring mechanism which had stopped moving due to a crust forming in the tank.
As they did so, however, they were engulfed by toxic hydrogen sulphide gas. Both of them lost consciousness. Mr Bartlett came round but Mr Pitt never did. He was later declared dead by paramedics.
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Substance risk poorly understood
In this case, an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive identified a number of unsafe practices and failings.
The risks associated with the anaerobic digestion plant in general or with opening the roof were not assessed, while workers were not trained to remove the roof and did not recognise that the removal of the roof was a specialist job.
The risks from substances generated in the AD process, including explosion and exposure to toxic gases, were also poorly understood.
Clifford Owen Yeatman, of Lowbrook Farm, Blandford Forum, Dorset, was fined a total of £15,000 as a director of Biogas Nord UK (Ltd) after he pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
He also pleaded guilty to two further breaches of the act as a partner of CO and RA Yeatman and was fined £45,000.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: February 24, 2015
Author: Jonathan Brown