Grower fined after workers put at risk

A grower was fined after safety inspectors found dangerous conditions on a mushroom farm near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
Suffolk Mushrooms Limited was also housing 37 employees in a disused office block with a potentially unsafe gas boiler on the Shepherd Grove Industrial Estate, East Stanton.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation found that heating in the living accommodation was provided by a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) fired boiler in the men’s toilet.

This boiler had not been serviced or maintained and there was no landlord’s gas safety certificate, which is a legal requirement.

Inspectors also found a number of safety failings in the building used as a mushroom farm, Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court was told.

Gates on platforms used by employees to reach the highest mushroom beds were propped open and an HGV regularly reversed 100m between the two growing sheds where people might be walking.

Inspectors also found that forklift trucks were being operated by drivers who were not properly trained and equipment was being towed around unsafely with pieces of knotted rope.

The investigation and subsequent prosecution came after St Edmundsbury Borough Council informed the Health and Safety Executive in 2010.

Suffolk Mushrooms Ltd of Shepherds Grove Industrial Estate, Stanton, Bury St Edmunds, admitted breaching health and safety legislation and was fined £10,000.

It was fined £750 for not having a landlord Gas Safety report for the boiler, and ordered to pay £8,446.05 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector John Claxton said: “What we discovered at this farm was very disturbing. It is difficult to believe that workers can be exposed to such unnecessary risks.

“Suffolk Mushrooms invested more than £1.5m in refurbishing its factory and mushroom growing equipment, yet failed to spend even a few hundred pounds to keep its employees safe.

“The workers were from Eastern Europe and most were unable to speak good English, and so were vulnerable to this type of exploitation.

“There is absolutely no excuse to treat employees like this.”

Free advice and guidance was available from HSE to help businesses comply with the law and keep people safe,” said Mr Claxton.

He added: “The HSE will not hesitate to take action against companies failing to comply with the law.”

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