Farmers have been reminded of the dangers associated with grain storage following the death of a worker on a farm south of the border.
The farm business – Maurice Mason Ltd – was find after one of its employees died at its grain storage facility.
The death of 21-year-old Arthur Mason at Hall Farm, Fincham, near Kings Lynn in Norfolk, occurred on July 9, 2014.
Norwich Crown Court heard that Mr Mason was taking turns with a colleague to undertake cleaning work inside grain bins at the farm. He was standing directly on the stored grain, using a broom to clean down the exposed inner surfaces of the bin. He wore a harness fitted with a fall-arrest lanyard, which was secured to a fixed ladder inside the bin.
He began to sink into the grain, which was emptying slowly through a small opening at the bottom of the bin several feet below its surface.
The court heard that any such movement or cavity in grain may be enough to create a ‘quicksand’ like effect.
While sinking into the grain, the fall-arrest component on Mr Mason’s lanyard began to unravel and extend causing him to sink deeper into the grain.
The court heart that after alerting colleagues, who tried to assist, the farmworker swiftly became engulfed in the grain and subsequently drowned, despite most determined rescue efforts by farmworkers and emergency services.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Maurice Mason Ltd had failed to adequately identify and manage the deadly risks associated with cleaning grain stores.
It said there was no safe system of work in place for this task, nor had anyone involved been provided with suitable training in how to complete it safely.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £22,000.
HSE inspector Paul Unwin said: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a young man. This death could easily have been prevented if his employer had acted to identify and manage the risks involved, and to put a safe system of work in place. There should be little need for anyone to enter such grain bins as it may be reasonably practicable to clean them remotely from outside.
“The dangers associated with grain storage are well known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from HSE and other organisations.”