Farmer Fined after Builder's Labourer Injured in Fall

Bruce Quarton, the owner of Moorhouse Farm in Hovingham, York, has been fined £6,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £1,530 at York Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Mr Quarton was prosecuted after a labourer was injured after falling from a building on Moorhouse Farm then had a no win no fee claim.

On the 28th October 2009, the worker, who has asked not to be named, was assisting a builder with a project on the farm when the incident occurred. Mr Quarton had hired the builder to convert an old farm building into a new cattle shed. In order to carry out the work, the builder was required to improve ventilation in the building by removing alternate ridge tiles from its roof.

Unfortunately, the building was equipped with no edge protection and Mr Quarton failed to supply any equipment or materials necessary to prevent workers from falling off or through the building. Crawling boards, for example, ought to have been used to spread the weight of any person working atop the roof.

Whilst working on top of the building, the unnamed labourer walked onto an unprotected roof light, which collapsed beneath his weight. Falling three metres to the concrete floor beneath, the worker sustained multiple serious injuries, including fractures to his skull, collarbone and right wrist. The worker also broke six ribs and ruptured his spleen.

Personal injury claims involving incidents in the agriculture industry are common in the UK, with most such accident claims brought after workers have suffered falls from height. Although Mr Quarton may have expected the builder in question to carry out his work safely, he was also required by the law to ensure that the work was carried out safely.

After the court hearing, David Green, a principal inspector for the Health and Safety Executive, said: “This work was poorly planned and executed from start to finish, with the end result being a horrific fall that could easily have killed the labourer”.

Mr Green added: “In agriculture, roughly half of deaths and medical negligence are as a result of falls involving work on fragile roofs. HSE offers ample free guidance on working at height online and through local Safety and Health Awareness Days, as it does on the safe use of farm machinery. Using a tractor and bucket as an impromptu lift is totally unacceptable. I hope today’s prosecution serves as a further reminder that farm machinery should only be used for its intended purpose and that work at height needs to be properly planned”.