A turf company has been fined £67,000 after a 30-year-old father-of-two was crushed to death.
Turfgrass Services International Ltd, which trades as Inturf, in Wilberfoss, York, was also ordered to pay costs of £33,000 after it admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
The incident happened on September 20, 2011, when Lee Woodhouse, who had worked for the company for a year, was struck and run over by a turf harvester weighing 27 tonnes.
Mr Woodhouse, from Wilberfoss, had been using the harvester in a field in Barnby Moor, East Yorkshire, but had experienced technical problems during the morning.
A few hours later, a local resident called the emergency services after he realised that the harvester had become stuck against a tree, with its wheels still turning and no driver in sight.
A co-worker of Mr Woodhouse then went to the field to check what had happened and found Mr Woodhouse lying on the ground. He had suffered serious crush injuries and was pronounced dead by paramedics.
Safety features deliberately disabled
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and came to the conclusion that Mr Woodhouse must have been run over by the harvester while he was walking alongside it to have a look at the machine’s cut-off mechanism, which caused the technical problems earlier that day.
The HSE also found a wire link which had been put across the terminals of a relay switch.
This link disabled several safety features on the turf harvester, such as a cut-off switch which is attached to the driver’s seat and stops the operation of the machine if the driver is getting out of his seat.
It was also found that the harvester’s safety mechanism had been manipulated in this way since 2009, and the safety features on another turf harvester had been switched off since 2011.
Other safety issues identified by the HSE include Inturf’s failure to:
- Identify the risks involved in handling harvesting machines
- Make sure safe systems of work are in place with regards to maintenance and inspection
- Ensure all train machine operators and supervisors are properly trained
- Prevent workers from access to dangerous parts of the harvesters and
- Ensure the harvesters are properly maintained and checked regularly.
Making a claim with Accident Advice Helpline
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Source: Grass Clippings
Date Published: July 11, 2014
Author: David Brown