Potato processing firms fined for safety failings

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Health and safety failings have cost Braegate Produce Ltd £50k and C H Cole & Sons £30k
Health and safety failings have cost Braegate Produce Ltd £50k and C H Cole & Sons £30k
Potato processor Braegate Produce has been fined £50,000 for health and safety failings, while a separate potato processing line accident has cost one Essex firm more than a £30,000 penalty.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 5 January 2018, Mr Smith, aged 62, was walking across the middle yard to the maintenance workshop at Braegate’s Tadcaster site. He was struck by three potato boxes loaded on the tines of a telehandler operated by another employee, knocked to the ground by the impact and suffered a fracture to his left leg.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigators found that the company had insufficient measures in place to prevent people being struck by a vehicle. A protected walkway was provided to only two sides of the yard but not to a third, well-used pedestrian route.

The company had also failed to ensure forklift truck and telehandler operators were clear what the site rules were around the transportation of potato boxes and to effectively enforce them, the HSE claimed.

Pleaded guilty

Braegate Produce Ltd of Mill Hill, Braegate Lane, Colton, Tadcaster pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Workplace (Health and Safety Welfare) Regulations 1991. The company was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £962 in costs.

Companies need to organise transport operations to reduce the risk it poses to pedestrians,” said ​HSE inspector Kate Dixon after the hearing. “This should include consideration of the site, driver and vehicles. There are some quick, easy and inexpensive steps that can be implemented.”

This month also saw another business fined for a potato processing related accident, after a worker was pulled into a grading machine.

Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard how on 24 October 2017 a 34-year-old agency worker was seriously injured when he fell onto the cleaning rollers of a potato grading machine at a farming partnership C H Cole & Sons in West Tilbury, Essex.

Drawn in up to the shoulder

The machine had not been isolated from its power source and was restarted while the worker was still in a dangerous area. He fell on the rotating rollers and his arm was drawn in up to the shoulder before the machine could be stopped.

An investigation by the HSE found that workers had not been given adequate training on the use of the machine and that the company did not employ safe systems of work to prevent the potato grading machine from starting up during routine cleaning work.

C H Cole & Sons (Mill House) based at Mill House Farm, West Tilbury pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The partnership was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,000.

HSE inspector Saffron Turnell warned that, due to the health and safety breaches, the agency worker’s injuries could have been much worse.

She added: “This investigation highlights and consolidates the important and consistent guidance HSE provides to the agricultural industry about the safe stop of machinery and plant, and companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate action against those that fall below the required standards.”

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