Farming Firm Prosecuted Over Death Of Worker

Death Of Farm Worker Leads To Prosecution Over Unsafe Construction Work


A farming company has been prosecuted over the death of a member of staff who was killed when carrying out construction work he was not trained to do.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) took agriculture company T Lea Sherwin to court over the death of Sean Bennett, who was engaged in work to build a new cowshed at Yew Tree Farm in Stanthorne in December 2010 when a 1.5 tonne concrete wall panel he was trying to lift into place using a telehandler vehicle fell on him. He was taken to hospital but died of his injuries two days later.

Mr Bennett, a 30-year-old father-of-one, had been trying to lift the panel into place with chains and bolts while they were being lowered from the telehandler when the bolts snapped, causing the object to break free and fall.

An investigation by the HSE noted T Lea Sherwin had chosen to try to build the cowshed itself instead of using a specialist construction firm, something it was not qualified to do, while the telehandler was not an appropriate piece of equipment to use.

Commenting on the situation, HSE investigating inspector Jane Carroll said: "The project was poorly planned and the lifting equipment provided wasn't capable of raising concrete panels weighing 1.5 tonnes. It was therefore inevitable that the bolts would snap when the panel was being lifted.

"The firm should have realised it was out of its depth and brought in a specialist contractor to carry out the work, rather than carrying on regardless and hoping for the best."

T Lea Sherwin pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at Liverpool Crown Court and was fined £50,000 with £28,585 in costs.

Farm buildings such as cowsheds can often pose a danger when safety procedures are not followed, both in their construction and in later maintenance.

Expert Opinion
This is a tragic case and our thoughts are with the family of Mr Bennett.

“This case highlights the horrendous consequences that cutting corners and trying to save costs by not contracting specialist workers can have – in this case a human life.

“We hope that the HSE prosecution serves as a reminder to employers in both the construction and agricultural industry about the importance of following health and safety policies to protect their staff from avoidable injury.”
Stephen Nye, Partner