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Turf farm fined £67,000 after Employee death on farm

Grass Clippings - Inturf LogoA Turf company has been fined £67,000 after one of its East Yorkshire workers was crushed to death by a harvester.

York-based specialist turf company Turfgrass Services International Ltd was handed the fine for a catalogue of safety failings that led to the death of Wilberfoss father-of-two Lee Woodhouse.

Mr Woodhouse died from serious crushing injuries when he was struck and then run over by a 27-tonne turf harvester he had been using in a field off Feoffee Common Lane, in Barmby Moor, near Pocklington.

The accident happened on September 20, 2011, and was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted the company, trading as Inturf, after finding a key safety system on the machine had been deliberately bypassed.

Hull Crown Court was told yesterday that Mr Woodhouse, who had worked for Inturf for a year, had been using the turf harvester during the morning but had been having technical problems.

Later that afternoon, Mr Woodhouse was discovered on the ground in the field close to the harvester. Paramedics attended but Mr Woodhouse had died at the scene.

The HSE's investigation concluded he had been run over while walking alongside the machine to observe or adjust its problem from earlier that day.

The HSE said a wire link had been put across the terminals of a relay switch, which negated a number of safety features on the harvester, including the cut-off switch attached to the driver's seat. This is designed to cut the operation of the harvesting machinery if the driver is not in the seat. The harvester had been operated with the safety features disabled since 2009.

After the sentencing, HSE inspector Andrea Jones said: "This was a tragic incident that's had devastating and life-changing effects on Lee's whole family, particularly his wife, his two small children and his parents. The incident was entirely preventable.

"Had the vital seat switch not been disabled, there would have been no reason for Mr Woodhouse to have been observing the cutters at the front of the machine while it continued to move forwards.

"It is essential all employers with machines for use on farms and in the turf-cutting industry put systems in place for checking all safety guarding regularly, and provide training and supervision to make sure machines are not operated with missing or defeated safety functions. Agriculture has the second highest rate of deaths of all work sectors. In the past ten years, almost one person a week has been killed as a direct result of agricultural work."

"Life will never be the same again for family members left behind after a work-related death. And in the case of Lee Woodhouse, two young children will now have to grow up without their dad."

The family of Lee Woodhouse say life will never be the same.

As well as the fine, Turfgrass Services International Ltd, was ordered to pay £33,000 in costs for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The company admitted the offence at an earlier hearing."

Link to original article in Hull Daily News

Story from Landscape Juice

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