Family fined £9,000 after toddler traps foot at farm

A farming family has been fined £9,000 after a three-year-old boy needed plastic surgery for a foot injury on a farm where a toddler was previously killed.

The three-year-old got his foot trapped at White House Farm in Offcote, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, during harvest on 21 September, 2013.

Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court heard that the toddler, who cannot be named for legal reasons, trapped his foot in a grain auger.

See also: Farm sprayer spills chemicals after plunging into ditch

He was taken to Royal Derby Hospital and treated by a plastic surgeon for the injury, which required several nights at the hospital for recovery.

The court was told it was the second incident involving a child at the farm. In 2009, a two-year-old boy was killed when he was hit by a telehandler.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) decided to prosecute the Hammersleys after it launched an investigation into the toddler’s foot injury.

HSE inspectors found that the boy had accessed the first floor of the barn via a ladder.

As well as the dangers this posed, there were also open edges on the first floor, poor electrical insulation and significant levels of grain, dust and noise. The auger had a guard but such guarding was not designed for a child’s dimensions.

Ivan Hammersley, 72, Jane Hammersley, 66, Christopher Hammersley, 43 and Daniel Hammersley, 40, all pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws.

Ivan Hammersley of White House Farm was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay court costs of £500. Jane Hammersley of the same address was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £500.

Christopher Hammersley, also of White House Farm, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £500. And Daniel Hammersley, of Green Road, Ashbourne, was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £500.

Sentencing all four defendants, local newspaper, The Ashbourne News Telegraph, reported that district judge Jonathan Taafe told them: “At worst this was reckless, at best it was negligent.

“The view that is sometimes canvassed is that health and safety is an optional extra. It is not an optional extra. Risk assessment and risk management is a matter of utmost importance.

“This could have been an incident in which loss of life could have been involved.”

The court heard that the Hammersleys had suffered a tragedy on their farm in 2009 when Robert Duncan Hammersley, aged two years and eight months, was killed when he fell under the wheels of a tractor being driven by his grandfather, Ivan Hammersley.

An inquest concluded that the toddler had died through misadventure.

Judge Taaffe added: “You are all people of outstanding good character and I have read many references that show you are well thought of in the community.

“The expression that has been used in court is that you are ‘fighting against the tide’ and I accept these are not good times for the agriculture industry.”

Speaking after sentencing, the HSE explained that the three-year-old toddler was on the first floor of a barn with farmer Christopher Hammersley, who was moving grain around using a pair of augers – a rotating screw inside a tube – when his foot was pulled into one.

HSE inspector Stuart Parry said: “Agriculture has one of the highest fatal incident rates of any industry. It is also the only high-risk industry that has to deal with the frequent presence of children. Farms are homes as well as workplaces.

“Children should be kept in a safe place, such as a dedicated play area. Alternatively if they are observing farm work, it should be at a safe distance with a competent adult providing supervision, and that adult must not be the person undertaking the work task.”

Free guidance to help manage risks to children on farms is available at the HSE website including a PDF guide to preventing accidents and information on children and public safety

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