Potato firm fined £40,000 after worker seriously injured

A Scottish farming company has been fined £40,000 for health and safety breaches after an employee sustained serious injuries in a fall from height.

Alan Twatt Potatoes is a family owned and run business with five full-time employees. It owns the 100ha Easter Cushnie Farm at Gamrie in Banff, Aberdeenshire.

On Friday (7 December), Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard the company’s employees were tasked with installing an electricity cable through four barns at a height of about 4m on 29 November 2017.

See also: Farm health and safety: Working at height

To complete the work, Christopher Lovie stood in a potato box lifted by a forklift, controlled by another employee.

Mr Lovie fell to the ground with the box, suffered a head injury and multiple fractures, and was airlifted to hospital.

The court heard Mr Lovie had been left with bruised lungs and a head injury, needed an operation and was not discharged from hospital until 11 December 2017.

Inherently unsafe

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the potato box was inherently unsafe and should not have been used with the forklift truck in any circumstances. In addition, the company had failed to follow their own procedures in relation to safe working at height.

See also: HSE launches ‘falls from height’ inspection campaign

Alan Twatt Potatoes of Commerce House, South Street, Elgin, Moray, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 Banff and failing to assess the risks.

Sheriff William Summers said the company’s level of responsibility was “medium”, whereas the seriousness of the risk was “high”, and ordered it to pay £40,000.

“Anyone falling from this height at the same time as a substantial wooden box could well have sustained more injuries and could have been killed,” Sheriff Summers said.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Norman Schouten said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by using the correct equipment. A potato box or other makeshift equipment is never a suitable platform for working at height.”