A farmers’ co-operative has been fined £100,000 after a worker was killed in a machinery accident.

David Dow, 63, was killed instantly when a tailgate fell on his neck while he was operating machinery for Dengie Crops in Asheldham, Essex.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard that Mr Dow, of Burnham-on-Crouch had leaned into the back of a tipper trailer to talk to a colleague when the tailgate closed suddenly and crushed him to death.

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Mr Dow was unaware that another worker in the tractor cab had just operated the controls to close the tailgate and it closed so quickly that he had no time to react to the warning and duck out the way.

He died at the scene from his injuries following the incident on 1 May 2012.

The court was told that the tailgate extensions were being fitted on three trailers to equip them to collect crops from the fields and deliver them to a site to be dried and processed.

But the fatal accident could easily have been avoided if barriers had been in place around the trailer to prevent unauthorised access, the court heard.

“This incident should serve as a reminder that employers need to ensure they have adequate measures in place to manage health and safety at their workplace.”
Vicky Fletcher, HSE

Dengie Crops, which grows and produces alfalfa (lucerne) for use in the production of high-quality animal feeds, pleaded guilty to two health and safety breaches.

The Southminster company was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £28,347 in court costs.

Magistrates heard that the company had been prosecuted on three previous occasions for safety failings.

Speaking after sentencing, HSE principal inspector Vicky Fletcher said the death could easily have been avoided if Dengie Crops had put simple and low cost safety measures in place, such as safety barriers around the trailer during the work.

She added: “This incident should serve as a reminder that employers need to ensure they have adequate measures in place to manage health and safety at their workplace.”

A Dengie Crops spokesman said: “The company has taken this tragic accident extremely seriously and accepts by way of its plea of guilty that there were failings in the way it managed health and safety at its Asheldham site.

“Mr Dow was a popular and valued member of the company and the devastating effect of his death has been felt by all at Dengie – our sincerest condolences go out to Mr Dow’s family.”