A farm has been fined after an employee was killed whilst attempting to clear a blockage in a 40ft high grain bin.
The teenager suffocated when he became trapped in six tonnes of oil seed rape at Deanfoot farm near the village of Denholm in the Scottish borders.
Jedburgh Sheriff Court heard how the young man was working for Seamore Farming at their farm in Hawick when the incident occurred in August 2014.
The court was told that large metal containers known as bins were used on the farm for storing grain during harvest time. The bins were cleaned out four times a year when one type of grain was replaced with another.
Each grain bin had an exit hole at the bottom to allow grain to pass through onto a conveyor belt. It was not uncommon for these holes to become blocked and on the day of the accident the worker was attempting to clear such a blockage.
Tragically, he became trapped in the free flowing grain and despite frantic attempts by a colleague to prevent his head from disappearing beneath the grain he died as a result of asphyxiation.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the accident found the system of work in place to clear grain bin blockages was “inherently and obviously unsafe.”
After pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Seamore Farming was fined £45,000.
Agriculture, forestry and fishing is still the most dangerous industry sector in the UK with an alarming number of fatal accidents and work-related serious injuries suffered every year. The majority of these accidents are entirely preventable.
The dangers of working within confined spaces in the farming industry are well documented. A confined space is anywhere where there is a risk of serious injury or death due to a loss of consciousness from oxygen starvation, drowning or suffocation. Confined spaces on farms include grain bins or stores, slurry pits, and controlled atmosphere fruit and vegetable stores.
Entry into grain silos is inherently dangerous due to the risk from engulfment, a lack of oxygen and mechanical hazards. As such, when clearing blockages in grain bins there must always be a safe system of work in place to avoid the need for anyone having to enter the bins. If someone does have to enter a confined space such as a grain silo it is crucial that employers ensure there are proper emergency arrangements and procedures in place.
Stuart Cochran is a senior personal injury solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Edinburgh.
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