Crushed arable worker ‘lucky to be alive’, court told

A farmworker who suffered serious head and back injuries after he was dragged into a grain auger is lucky to be alive, a court has been told.

The 27-year-old worker from Shropshire, who asked not to be named, was attempting to remove a blockage of wet grain inside a grain dryer auger at GH and DP Jones’ Red Hall Farm in Hordley on 17 September 2013.

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The Health and Safety Executive investigated the accident and prosecuted farm owner George Edward Jones, 66, of Hordley, Shropshire.

Mr Jones pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 during a hearing at Telford Magistrates’ Court on 13 August. He was sentenced to a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £1,091.

During the hearing the court heard how Mr Jones and the farmworker had climbed to the top of the grain dryer. Power to the auger screw was switched off and an unsuccessful attempt was made to unblock it using wooden poles.

Sometime later, the farmworker knelt down and started to unblock the machine using his hand. However, another employee turned the power to the auger screw back on and the worker was drawn into the machine. His arm was pulled under the auger screw and his torso and head were wedged between the screw and the trough it sits in.

The entanglement caused the mechanism to fail and the auger screw stopped turning.

The trapped man was struggling to breathe as he was caught underneath the auger until colleagues lifted it and cut the auger away with an angle grinder.

He suffered severe lacerations to his arm, head and back and required 44 stitches, 73 staples and a blood transfusion. He also suffered a fractured shoulder blade and damaged tendons in his right hand.

He was off work for more than six weeks but has since been able to return to work.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Kivlin said: “This man is very lucky to be alive after suffering horrific injuries following an incident which was entirely preventable.

“Farm managers and owners should ensure maintenance is planned properly and safe systems of work implemented.”

He added: “Approximately 40% of fatal incidents involving agricultural machinery occur during unplanned maintenance activities. This could easily have been another with tragic consequences.”

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