22 Jul 2014

Farmers fined for contractor’s serious injuries

Two brothers have been fined for breaking safety legislation after a contractor suffered serious brain injuries in a fall while carrying out building work at one of their farms.

The contractor was installing a floor over a slurry lagoon in a new barn at Gwarllwyn Farm, near Llandysul on 12 June 2012 when the floor panel he and a workman were standing on gave way, plunging them into the lagoon four metres below.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which prosecuted farm owners Andrew Evans and his brother, David Evans, at Aberystwyth Magistrates Court yesterday (Monday 21 July).

The court heard the contractor was hired to create a cattle shed floor over an existing slurry lagoon. He erected concrete pillars in the slurry pit then put pre-formed concrete beams on top and laid concrete wall panels across the beams instead of panels specifically designed for flooring. These were to hold a slatted floor and cattle cubicles.

As the contractor and another workman were standing on one of the panels, it gave way, plunging them into the lagoon. The contractor suffered a head injury and was hospitalised for two month and he is still undergoing rehabilitation. The workman escaped without injury.

HSE found the two farmers failed to make a crucial appointment of a construction and design co-ordinator who would have advised them on their responsibilities as a construction client and how to ensure the project was managed safely and without risk to health. The brothers also did not have a principal contractor so had assumed that role, giving them the responsibility for planning, managing and monitoring the health and safety aspects of the construction work.

However, no design or construction plans existed and there were no risk assessments or agreed safe system of work. They also failed to check the contractor was suitably competent to do the work. The wall panels he used were unsuitable and the workmen he employed on site had no training or experience in construction.

In addition, the brothers allowed the contractor to use an untrained crane driver, using a 25 tonne lift capacity crane that had not been thoroughly tested for ten years, despite this being an annual requirement.

They also failed to supervise or monitor the construction work, which involved a great deal of working at height, so there were no suitable measures to prevent or mitigate any effects of a fall.

Andrew Evans, of Gwarllwyn Farm, Rhydlewis, Llandysul and David Evans of Esgair Tangwst, Rhydlewis each pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and were each fined a total of £9,000. Each was ordered to pay costs of £3,560.

HSE Inspector, Phil Nicolle, speaking after the hearing, said:

“Farmers cannot ignore their legal duties for health and safety when arranging construction work on their farms. The contractor in this case suffered life-threatening injuries and has yet to make a full recovery.

“The Evans brothers were undertaking a major construction project and failed to make the crucial appointment of a Construction Design and Management Co-ordinator to advise them on their responsibilities and how to manage the project safely.

“They took on the responsibilities of a principal contractor for planning, managing and monitoring the health and safety aspects of the construction work, and in all these respects they failed significantly.

“If farmers use contractors for any work they simply cannot tell them what to do and let them get on with it. Both the client and the contractor have legal duties for health and safety that can’t be passed to each other by contract. This means they have to work with each other to make sure the job is done safely. Farmers must always question their contractors about their health and safety arrangements.”

Press enquiries Regional reporters should call the appropriate Regional News Network press office. Issued on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive by the Regional News Network

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