Two farming brothers from Ceredigion have been fined £9,000 for safety failures after a contractor suffered serious brain injuries in a fall while carrying out building work at one of their farms.

The worker 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 4m below.

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, farm owner Andrew Evans and his brother David Evans were sentenced at Aberystwyth Magistrates Court on Monday (21 July).

The court heard the contractor was hired to create a cattle shed floor over an existing slurry lagoon.

He built 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.

But as the contractor and another workman were standing on one of the panels, it gave way, plunging them into the lagoon.

Read more news on Farm health and safety

Following the incident in June 2012, the contractor suffered a head injury and was hospitalised for two months 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.

In addition, the Evans brothers allowed the contractor to use an untrained crane driver, using a 25t lift capacity crane that had not been thoroughly tested for 10 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.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Phil Nicolle said: “Farmers cannot ignore their legal duties for health and safety when arranging construction work on their farms.

“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.”