Norfolk farming firm T Long and Company Limited has been prosecuted for putting workers and members of the public at risk from a dangerous poison being used to control rabbits.
Norfolk Crown Court heard how a resident in the village of Bracon Ash, near Wymondham in Norfolk, saw two men trespassing in her garden on 14 January 2015. When confronted they told her they were ‘gassing rabbits’ but did not give her any other information about the substance they were using or the risks involved. After asking them to leave her property she found a number of blocked rabbit holes and an empty container of ‘Phostoxin’, a compound of Aluminium Phosphide used as a vertebrate control agent. Phostoxin is classed as highly flammable, very toxic and dangerous to the environment.
Both Natural England and Rentokil pest controllers identified approximately 56 treated burrows in the garden and also on the public lane along the side of the property. There had been no precautions taken to inform or protect either the householder or members of the public from risks to their health from possible exposure to Phostoxin.
A Health and Safety Executive investigation (HSE) found that the workers using the Phostoxin did not have the appropriate competence or certificates to apply the product. They had not been provided with or wearing appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment), and were not properly trained or supervised to carry out this type of work.
T Long and Company Limited of Whitehall Farm, Crownthorpe, Wymondham pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and were fined £15,000 in total and ordered to pay costs of £4,967.10 along with a victim surcharge of £120, giving a total to pay of £20087.10.
Speaking after the case HSE Inspector Paul Unwin said:
“Products such as ‘Phostoxin’ are dangerous compounds and can easily cause severe harm or, indeed, fatalities if not used properly by trained and competent persons. In this case, the cavalier way in which the dangerous compound was applied could easily have caused harm to the owners of the private garden and also to those members of the public, their children and their dogs using the lane.
“Pesticides are carefully regulated to protect people and the environment. HSE will take robust action against those who unnecessarily put the lives of workers and the public at risk and against those who endanger the environment through inappropriate use of pesticides.”
Guidance on safely carrying out fumigation operations can be found here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ais22.htm
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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
- More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/
- HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk