Farm fined £8,000 for telehandler accident

A Scottish farm has been fined £8,000 for health and safety failings after two agricultural workers were seriously injured in a telehandler accident.

Nether Dysart Farms owner’s son David Alston Jr, 19 and employee Ian Murray, 54, were seriously hurt in the farm accident on May 12, 2010.

The two workers narrowly cheated death when a Manitou 626 lift truck they were using went out of control and plunged down a steep bank before coming to rest at the top of a cliff.

Arbroath Sheriff Court heard that the workers had been repairing the fence in a field between the East Coast railway line and cliffs overlooking Lunan Bay in preparation of cattle being moved there.

See pictures from the accident in the gallery below

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Mr Alston was driving the telehandler, which was being used to carry fence posts and other materials.

The farm, based at Lunan, Montrose, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by allowing a person under the age of 18 to operate a telehandler without formal training. Mr Alston Jr was 17 at the time of the accident.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive and officers from Tayside Police Crash Investigation Unit found that either the parking brake had been inadvertently released or had failed to hold the vehicle on the slope.

The HSE investigation also revealed that the farming partnership had never provided any formal tractor driving training for David Alston Jr, though his father had informally taught him from a young age.

Approved codes of practice make it clear that young people under 18 should not be permitted to drive tractors or self-propelled vehicles unless they had been on a formal training course.

The court also heard the David Alston Jr should not have been behind the wheel of a telehandler in this particular field at all, as the approved code of practice states young people should not be allowed to drive a tractor unless the ground is free of steep slopes.

After sentencing, HSE inspector Gillian McLean said: “Given [the driver’s] age and his lack of formal training, he should never have been allowed to drive the telehandler.

“Had the appropriate guidance been followed this incident could have been avoided. Instead, not only did the driver suffer injuries himself, but also the co-worker sustained severe injuries, which required multiple operations and have had lasting implications.

“There was a clear potential for this to have been a fatal incident, all because the employer failed to ensure a safe system of work was in place by not following approved codes of practice.”