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Partnership fined following death of long-serving farm manager

20 March 2017

A farming partnership has been fined £60,000 following the death of a farm manager in Staffordshire.

Stafford Crown Court heard on 20 May 2014, 67-year-old John Mills fell more than 14 feet from a fragile roof while dismantling farm buildings in Hyde Lea on land owned by the Toft Partnership.

Mr Mills used a ladder to climb onto the roof to cut bolts holding roof panels in place, but the roof gave way. He was taken to hospital but died a short time later from serious head injuries.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Mr Mills had been working at the farm for more than 40 years. The Toft Partnership had told the court it assumed their manager’s day-to-day running of the farm meant he was ultimately responsible for health and safety matters, when in fact they were the duty holders with responsibility for their employees.

Though the Toft Partnership knew the work was taking place, it gave no advice to its employees about how fragile the roof was, nor was there any planning or safe method of work in place.

The Toft Partnership, of Dunston Heath, Stafford, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £29,417.

Speaking after sentence, HSE Inspector Katherine Blunt said: “This death was a tragedy for everyone associated with the farm, including the duty holders themselves.

“John Mills was a stalwart for the farm whose death was avoidable. This case sends a very important message to farm owners that they are very clear on where their responsibilities lie, and then to act on those obligations.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. 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.
  2. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at:
  3. HSE news releases are available at

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