An Aberdeenshire farmer died after he put his head inside a grainer to clean it while it was still operational, a sheriff has ruled.
Andrew Neil Ironside died in the horrific accident at Auchlinn Farm in November on November 10, 2018.
A fatal accident inquiry was held into the tragedy late last year. Sheriff Robert Macdonald has now released his findings, which suggest the tragedy could have been avoided if measures to prevent the grainer from working while the safety hatches were open had been put in place.
The court heard that Mr Ironside, 47, from Portlethen, had been working with farm worker Ryan McGibbon when the incident happened.
He told the court that when he arrived at the farm the machine – which would normally be switched off to allow access to inspection doors – was running when he arrived at about noon.
‘Significant head and neck injuries’
Mr Ironside, a director JNI Agricultural Ltd which bought Auchlinn Farm in 2016, had been using the farm to grow wheat and barley as feed for pigs.
The company was using its Pedrotti 250L mobile grain dryer to prepare the harvested grain for storage.
But Mr Ironside became caught in the movable parts of the machine as he cleaned it following a harvest, and died at the scene.
Sheriff Macdonald said the cause of the death was “significant head and neck injuries”.
He said: “The accident resulting in the death was caused by the late Mr Ironside placing his head and upper body within the drying chamber of a Pedrotti 250L mobile grain dryer whilst the moving or rotating parts of dryer were in operation, resulting in his face and neck becoming trapped between a rotating agitator bar and the dryer frame.”
He said the farmer was able to place his head close to moving parts after “defeating an interlocking mechanism” which should have prevented it from starting.
Sheriff Macdonald noted that when used properly, the mechanism would “automatically inhibit the machine from operating while the inspection door is not engaged in the interlock”.
He concluded that the cause of the accident was improper use of the machinery, specifically the interlocking mechanism.
He also said that “failure to observe written instructions and/or usual procedures for safe use of the grain drying machine” was a contributing factor.
Death could have been avoided
The sheriff added: “Had the late Mr Ironside utilised the interlocking mechanism on the outer inspection door in the correct manner, or otherwise disconnected the electricity supply, before placing his head and upper body within the drying chamber, his death might have been avoided as all moving parts would then have been stationary when he entered the drying chamber of the grain drying machine.”
He suggested the way work was carried out at Auchlinn Farm had allowed Mr Ironside to remove the inspection door and operate the grain dryer, deeming it “unsafe”.
Sheriff MacDonald concluded that the defect in the system of work caused the accident resulting in Mr Ironside’s death.
He said: “None of the witnesses were able to explain why Mr Ironside might have decided to remove and refit the outer guard door of the dryer in the way that he did but the consequences of his doing so proved to be tragic.”
Sheriff Macdonald did not make any recommendations for safety procedures.
However, the court heard that the manufacturers of the grainer, Fratelli Pedrotti s.r.l. of Mairano, Italy, have since modified the machine.
The hearing was held over video conferencing on December 17 and 18, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which Sheriff Macdonald said was “most unfortunate” as Mr Ironside’s family were not able to attend.
He concluded: “I would however wish to express my sincere condolences to the family of the late Mr Ironside for their sad loss as a result of this tragic accident.”
The accident happened just five years after the family were rocked by another tragedy at the farm.
Popular farmer Alan Ironside, 39,