Farming company fined £50k over worker’s death

A farming company was fined £50,000 after a young father was killed when a 1.5t concrete panel fell on him.

Sean Bennett was helping to build a new cowshed at Yew Tree Farm in Stanhorne, Middlewich, when the incident happened.

The 30-year-old from Winsford, Cheshire, died in hospital two days later.

T Lea Sherwin Ltd, which owns the farm, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation into his death found the lifting equipment was entirely unsuitable for the job.

Liverpool Crown Court heard on Monday (12 May) that the company specialises in dairy farming, but chose to build the new cattle shed without the help of a specialist construction company.

Mr Bennett was asked to help lift concrete panels into place to form the walls of the new cowshed by suspending panels from the farm’s telehandler vehicle, using chains and bolts to move them into place.

But the court was told that the firm failed to carry out a proper assessment of the risks, or to make sure a safe system of work was in place.

As they lifted the 6x1m panel, the bolts attached to the lifting chains snapped and the panel fell on Mr Bennett.

T Lea Sherwin Ltd, of Coalpit Lane in Stanthorne, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £28,585 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE investigating inspector Jane Carroll said: “The project was poorly planned, and the lifting equipment provided wasn’t capable of raising concrete panels weighing 1.5t. It was therefore inevitable that the bolts would snap when the panel was being lifted.

“The firm should have realised it was out of its depth and brought in a specialist contractor to carry out the work, rather than carrying on regardless and hoping for the best.”

Mr Bennett’s mother, Anne Robinson, said the whole family had been “completely devastated” by Mr Bennett’s death, on 8 December 2010.

“We are very close and have lots of get-togethers, but these have never been and will never be the same,” she added.

“As a mother, I never expected to lose a child. I think about him constantly. The last time I saw him, I was taking him to work. I never expected that he would not come home.

“Nothing can replace Sean. We have been left with a life sentence and sincerely hope that the prosecution may stop the same thing happening to another family.”

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