• 13 Feb 2024

Farming company fined £320,000 after fatality

A company involved in fruit and vegetable production has been fined £320,000 after a man “who always put family first” was killed at a site in Burscough.

Francis Schlachter, known as Frank, suffered severe head injuries when he fell from a skip at a farm operated by M.A.Forshaw Limited on 3 January 2020. The 64-year-old from Southport was described as ‘a rock’ by his wife of 35 years Linda, who said how much he would be missed by his friends and family.

Frank had been working at the site off Marsh Moss Lane, tipping food waste into a skip from a container attached to a forklift truck (FLT). The container could not be securely attached to the FLT, which was known to detach from the vehicle during the procedure. As Frank attempted to manually assist in the operation, he was standing on top of the skip when the container slipped from the FLT causing him to fall to the ground, resulting in fatal head injuries.

Companies that use work equipment must manage the risks associated with its use. Detailed guidance on the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 is available. Guidance for those using lifting equipment for work is also available.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that M.A.Forshaw Limited of Heatons Bridge Farm, Scarisbrick, West Lancashire, had not fully assessed the risks involved in this daily task. Had they done so, the dangers would have been identified. They also failed to maintain equipment in safe working order and to properly instruct staff in safe working practices.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. They were fined £320,000 and were ordered to pay £4,574 costs at a hearing at Wirral Magistrates’ Court on 1 February 2024.

HSE inspector Lianne Farrington said: “This wholly avoidable tragic incident led to the death of a much loved husband, dad and grandad.

“It was caused by the failure of the company to implement safe systems of work, properly maintain work equipment, and sufficiently assess the risks involved in routine work processes.

“If suitable work practices had been in place prior to the incident, Frank’s death could have been prevented.

To read the full story click here.

People on farms are 21 times more likely to be killed in a workplace accident than other industries.

In total, there have been 161 deaths on Britain’s farms over the last five years – an average of 26 people each year. This includes members of the public and children.

HSE plans to carry out 440 visits during the campaign which started in November 2023 and will last until April 2024. They intend to focus on the main causes of death in farming, including working with cattle, operating and maintaining vehicles and falls from height.

Kathy Gostick said: “There are simply too many tragedies in farming and it is time for that to change. We are committed to making workplaces safer and healthier and that includes agriculture – we will do this by highlighting the risks, providing advice and guidance, and by holding employers to account for their actions.

“This means changing attitudes towards safety – it is the only way we will reduce the numbers of people being injured or killed.

Read the full HSE press release: click here.

Everyone has a role to play in order to make farming a healthier and safer for future generations.

I don't work in the agricultural industry, but from an outsiders point of view, farm life seems to be completely disconnected from all other industries. Many farmers are brought up on their land, their grandparents, parents, generations of hard work, grit and determination to cultivate crops and raise livestock.

Due to generations of learnt behaviour - "this is how your grandparents did it" - the safety issues are more much complex to overcome. Yet removing the bravado mentality within farming families is the root to ensuring those families work in a safer and healthier environment.

Employees (and children*) who watch farm owners climbing on roofs without harnesses, sticking arms into machinery during maintenance without lockouts, cutting down trees without proper risk assessments will do the same (*and so will the next generation).

The bravado mentality also means that as a farmer gets older they will try to maintain their place within the "pack" even though their bodies aren't as nimble and strong as they once were. The 2023 HSE report showed that older workers, aged 65 and older, accounted for a third of all farm worker fatalities.

Now is the time for all farms to change, otherwise they risk losing someone irreplaceable... and for what? Bravado?

Here at TakeAIM / Good to Go Safety, we believe that providing your employees with as many opportunities to determine whether their next activity is safe is vitally important.

That's why TakeAIM and Good to Go Safety provide a range of tools to help achieve a safer farming environment - to find out more click here for our paper inspections and here for our digital app.


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