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Worker crushed and killed - employer fined

19 September 2011

A Fife-based farming partnership has been fined £112,500 after a worker was killed when he was crushed between the rollers of a potato harvester.

A potato harvester
A potato harvester

Keith Wannan, 34, from Cupar, Fife, Scotland, died as he was replacing rubber sleeves on the rollers of a potato harvester to prepare it for the new harvesting season.

His employers, GJ Orr of Foodieash, were sentenced at Cupar Sheriff Court after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the death.

The court heard that to replace the sleeves, the rollers needed to be removed and reinstated in the harvester. On the fatal morning in question, one of the partners, George Orr, assisted Keith Wannan. In order to put the rollers in the correct place he turned on power to the harvester using the controls of the tractor to which it was attached at the time. He then left Wannan to complete the work.

When Orr returned approximately an hour and a half later, he saw the tractor was running but could not see Wannan. As he got closer he saw Mr. Wannan trapped between the rollers.

Wannan was transferred by air ambulance to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee but was pronounced dead on arrival.

The HSE investigation found that GJ Orr had not conducted a proper assessment of the risks involved in carrying out maintenance and testing work on the potato harvester. As the work Wannan was doing required the removal of fixed guarding, GJ Orr should have identified the risk of exposure to dangerous moving parts.

The investigation also found that there was no safe system of work in place for maintenance to be carried out. There were no measures to prevent lone workers gaining access to moving parts of the harvester when the guarding was removed and the power was not isolated.

HSE Inspector Peter Dodd said: "Mr. Wannan went to work that day fully expecting to come home safe. But now his partner and his family have to come to terms with their loss. If GJ Orr had taken simple steps to protect their employees by thinking about hazards and risks, putting measures in place to prevent their employees being able to come into contact with dangerous parts of the harvester, this incident would not have happened. This case should act as a timely reminder to farmers of the very real dangers posed by their machinery when they are preparing it for harvesting, undertaking repairs or maintenance, or attempting to clear blockages."

GJ Orr of Cupar, Fife, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974.

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