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News

Fruit farm prosecution highlights important safety issues

HSE InfoLine : 19 July, 2005  (Company News)
Following the prosecution of a Berkshire fruit farming company last week, the Health and Safety Executive is using the case to emphasise a number of important safety issues to employers in the agriculture sector. These include: ensuring workers are properly trained; the need to carry out a risk assessment; and checking that machinery is suitable for the purpose for which it is being used. The prosecution followed HSE's investigation into the deaths of two Polish workers who became entangled in farm machinery used to coil rope.
Following the prosecution of a Berkshire fruit farming company last week, the Health and Safety Executive is using the case to emphasise a number of important safety issues to employers in the agriculture sector. These include: ensuring workers are properly trained; the need to carry out a risk assessment; and checking that machinery is suitable for the purpose for which it is being used. The prosecution followed HSE's investigation into the deaths of two Polish workers who became entangled in farm machinery used to coil rope.

The company, Hall Hunter Partnership (Farming) Ltd, specialises in the commercial cultivation of fruit, predominantly strawberries and raspberries. This involves the erection and dismantling of 'polytunnels', which are secured with long lengths of rope. The two men, Adam Borowik, 27, and 21-year-old Sebastian Skorupski, died after they became entangled between rope and a rotating shaft. They were using a tractor-mounted fleece winder machine, which was not suitable for rope winding as it did not have an automatic cut off in the event of entanglement. Also, they had not been adequately trained, nor made aware of the dangers posed by the task.

The four defendants, Hall Hunter Partnership (Farming) Ltd, Harry Hall, Mark Hall and Aventis Services Ltd, were fined a total of 80,000 at Reading Crown Court on Thursday 14 July 2005. Harry Hall and his father Mark are directors of Hall Hunter Partnership (Farming) Ltd. Aventis Services Ltd was contracted by the company to erect and dismantle polytunnels.

Speaking after the case, HSE Inspector Matthew Lee, said:

'This was a tragic and preventable accident which resulted in the loss of two lives. In terms of injuries, it is the worst I have seen in 30 years as an inspector

'The farming industry has one of the highest accident rates in the country. Farmers must ensure they take into account how machines should be operated when deciding safe working practices and if they want to use a machine for a purpose for which it was not designed, they should check with the manufacturer before doing so. Farmers must also ensure that workers are trained for the tasks they are asked to do and made aware of any dangers. This case also highlights the necessity of carrying out a proper risk assessment, which would have shown the serious risk of entanglement. HSE has developed software to help farmers carry out a comprehensive health and safety assessment of their farms and this is available free from the HSE website.

'HSE's approach to migrant workers is the same as for British workers. All workers are afforded the same protection by law.'

Judge Jonathan Playford QC, said: 'In relation to Hall Hunter Partnership, no adequate risk assessment had been carried out and it was particular to the partnership to address this problem because they had 300 workers, many of whom were students and many from abroad who may not have had full understanding of safe working practices.'
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