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Cheshire farming firm sentenced over worker’s death

Date:
13 May 2014

A farming company in Middlewich has been fined £50,000 after a father-of-one suffered fatal injuries when a 1.5 tonne concrete panel fell on him.

Sean Bennett was helping to build a new cowshed at Yew Tree Farm in Stanthorne when the incident happened on 8 December 2010. The 30-year-old farm worker from Winsford died in hospital two days later.

T Lea Sherwin Ltd, which owns the farm, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation into his death found the lifting equipment was entirely unsuitable for the job.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that the company specialises in dairy farming but chose to build the new cattle shed without the assistance of a specialist construction company.

Mr Bennett was asked to help lift concrete panels into place to form the walls of the new cowshed. This was done by suspending panels from the farm’s telehandler vehicle, using chains and bolts to move them into place.

The court was told the firm failed to carry out a proper assessment of the risks, or to make sure a safe system of work was in place. As they lifted the panel, which was six by one metres in diameter, the bolts attached to the lifting chains snapped and the panel fell onto Mr Bennett.

T Lea Sherwin Ltd, of Coalpit Lane in Stanthorne, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £28,585 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 12 May 2014.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Bennett’s mother, Anne Robinson, said:

“My whole family has been completed devastated by Sean’s death. We are very close and have lots of get-togethers but these have never been and will never be the same.

“As a mother, I never expected to lose a child. I think about him constantly. The last time I saw him, I was taking him to work. I never expected that he would not come home.

“Nothing can replace the loss of Sean. We have been left with a life sentence and sincerely hope that the prosecution may stop the same thing happening to another family.”

Jane Carroll, the investigating inspector at HSE, added:

“The company is experienced in farming – not construction – but decided it was capable of building a new cowshed. Sadly, Sean lost his life as a result.

“The project was poorly planned, and the lifting equipment provided wasn’t capable of raising concrete panels weighing 1.5 tonnes. It was therefore inevitable that the bolts would snap when the panel was being lifted.

“The firm should have realised it was out of its depth and brought in a specialist contractor to carry out the work, rather than carrying on regardless and hoping for the best.”

More information on construction safety is available at www.hse.gov.uk/construction.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
  3. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk.

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