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Suspended sentence for farming company director after elderly worker killed by bull

Date:
29 January 2015

A Staffordshire dairy farm director has been handed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, after safety failings led to a 75-year-old worker being crushed by a bull.

James Leech, from Dunston Heath, Staffordshire, died in hospital nine days after he was rammed several times against a gate by a Holstein friesian bull weighing around a tonne.

Mr Leech suffered catastrophic crush injuries including fractured vertebrae, broken pelvis and ribs, punctured lung and lacerations/damage to his internal organs.

Stafford Crown Court heard today (29 Jan) that on 9 July 2012 Mr Leech was moving cows and the bull into a cubicle shed at Dunston Dairy Farm, run by Betholt Ltd, of which Mr Mark Holt is a director.

After a colleague heard shouting, Mr Leech was found in a sitting position in the corner of the yard with the bull directly in front of him. Farm workers managed to get the bull away and secure the area.

HSE investigated the incident and served an Improvement Notice for failing to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the safety of employees from handling cattle. The company subsequently carried out an assessment.

HSE found Betholt Ltd and Mr Holt had failed to plan against the risks posed by working with cattle which led to Mr Leech’s death.

Mark Holt of Acton Hill Farm, Eccleshall, was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £10,073 after admitting breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Betholt Ltd of Winton House, Stoke Road, Stoke on Trent, was fined £133,333 and ordered to pay costs of £19,421 after admitting the same two breaches.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Wayne Owen said:

“Mr Leech was exposed to the dangers posed by working at close quarters with large herd animals including a dairy bull, by a lack of planning and risk assessment by his employer.

“Mark Holt and his company, Betholt Ltd, have neglected their duties by not putting safety measures in place – this has ultimately led to an elderly worker losing his life in tragic circumstances.”

In 2013/14, 27 agricultural workers were killed at work. For further information, go to www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/

Notes to editors

  1. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
  2. Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states: “Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of (a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work.”

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