North-east farming company fined £40,000 for health and safety failures after worker left severely injured following fall

© Google MapsAn employee was hospitalised following the incident last year at Easter Cushnie Farm at Gamrie in Banff.
An employee was hospitalised following the incident last year at Easter Cushnie Farm at Gamrie in Banff.

A north-east farming company has been fined £40,000 for breaches of health and safety legislation which led to an employee being hospitalised after he fell while installing an electricity cable.

Alan Twatt Potatoes Limited, which formed in 1976 and turns over more than £1million a year, is a family business with five full-time employees.

It owns the Easter Cushnie Farm at Gamrie in Banff which is 100 hectares in size and has five barns.

On November 29 last year employees were tasked with installing an electricity cable at height which would power a fridge on the site.

Graham Twatt and Christopher Lovie put a potato box on a fork lift but it was not fitted and was not suitable for the task.

Initially Mr Twatt was in the box as it was lifted up and Mr Lovie controlled the forklift.

Mr Twatt was then called to a meeting so another employee helped out and Mr Lovie moved into the box.

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The box fell off along with Mr Lovie while off lifted off the ground and he had to be taken to hospital by air ambulance after being severely injured.

The company confessed to failing to ensure the health and safety of Mr Lovie and failing to assess the risks during an appearance in Aberdeen Sheriff Court yesterday.

Fiscal depute Shona McJannett told the court Mr Lovie had been left with bruised lungs, a head injury and an operation was required and he was discharged on December 11 returning to work in March this year.

She added: “The potato box was not secure or suitable.”

Representing the company, defence agent Vikki Watt said the company had never breached health and safety obligations before.

She also said a letter signed by Mr Lovie “describes the company as the best employers he has worked for.”

Imposing a sentence on the company, which is registered at Commerce House on South Street in Elgin Moray, Sheriff William Summers said that the company’s level of culpability was “medium” whereas the seriousness of the risk was “high.”

He said: “Anyone falling from this height at the same time as a substantial wooden box could well have sustained more injuries and could have been killed.

“The fact that Mr Twatt took part in the activity does not detract from that.

“By doing that not only did he expose himself to risk he also set a very poor example.”