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UNSUITABLE FALL ARREST CONTRIBUTED TO DEATH

Workman drowned whilst cleaning grain store in ‘quicksand’ like effect

A Norfolk farming company has been fined after an employee died at a grain storage facility near Kings Lynn in July 2014.

Norwich Crown Court heard that Arthur Mason, aged 21, was undertaking cleaning work inside grain bins and standing directly on the stored grain. He used a broom to clean down the exposed inner surfaces of the bin.

He was wearing a harness fitted with a fall-arrest lanyard secured to a fixed ladder inside the bin when he began to sink. The grain was emptying slowly through a small opening at the bottom of the bin several feet below the surface.The court heard that any such movement or cavity in grain may be enough to create a ‘quicksand’ like effect.

Fall-arrest component of lanyard unravelled

The forces involved caused the fall-arrest component of the lanyard to unravel and extend and he therefore sunk deeper into the grain. After alerting colleagues, who tried to assist, he swiftly became engulfed in the grain and subsequently drowned, despite most determined rescue efforts by farmworkers and emergency services.

HSE found that the employer failed to adequately identify and manage the risks associated with cleaning grain stores. There was no safe system of work in place for this task and suitable training had not been provided.

Maurice Mason Ltd of Hall Farm, Fincham, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £22,000.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Paul Unwin said:

“This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a young man. This death could easily have been prevented if his employer had acted to identify and manage the risks involved, and to put a safe system of work in place.

There should be little need for anyone to enter such grain bins as it may be reasonably practicable to clean them remotely from outside”.

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