Salad Grower Prosecuted Over Mobile Platform Incident

Woman Fractures Skull In Greenhouse Accident


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

An Essex salad company has been prosecuted over an unsafe working incident that led to one of its staff suffering a fractured skull and a broken heel.

Nazeing-based Valley Grown Nurseries came under investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after 63-year-old Zofia Jurek was injured in July 2013.

She had been picking bell peppers in a greenhouse while standing on a mobile platform when it began to move, accelerating down a ramp and hurtling towards the door. Fearing for her safety, she jumped but hit her head on the concrete floor.

Ms Jurek's head injury has left her with impaired hearing, smell, taste, balance and reading, while the back of her skull is still highly sensitive to touch and heat. In addition to this cut, she had to have a plate fitted in her heel and spent months on crutches. She has not been able to return to work since.

The HSE investigation found that the platforms were designed to help people pick the peppers at heights of up to three metres and were only meant to be used on flat surfaces, as they were not fitted with brakes. It also discovered the platforms were not fitted with guard rails and needed a number of repairs.

Ms Jurek had been trying to use the trolley controls to move it away from the ramp, but instead it accelerated onto the slope. The HSE noted that after the incident, bollards were fitted at the top of the ramp to prevent a repeat incident.

Valley Grown Nurseries admitted a breach of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at Chelmsford Crown Court. It was fined £22,000 with costs of £8,830.

Commenting after the incident, HSE inspector Sue Matthews said: “Work at any height is inherently very risky, and it has to be properly planned, controlled and supervised.

"Valley Grown Nurseries Ltd failed to take inexpensive and simple precautions which would have prevented Ms Jurek’s injuries. The risk to workers using trolleys near to the ramp was known to the company but no action was taken to provide adequate protection."

Falls from height are a common cause of workplace fatalities in agriculture, with the HSE recording 29 deaths from this cause in 2012-13.

Expert Opinion
This is shocking case where a worker suffered life-changing injuries as a result of working with equipment that was not fitted with the appropriate safety measures. Working at height comes with many risks and it is vital companies following HSE guidelines to protect the safety of employees and minimise the risks of serious injury occurring.

“We would encourage all employers to take note of this case and ensure that the necessary health and safety lessons are learned from this, with the hope of avoiding such incidents in the future.

“A simple guardrail, regular repair work and taking actions to reduce the potential for an accident would have prevented this life-changing incident from taking place.”
Stephen Nye, Partner