A farming company has been fined after a worker aged 34 was left permanently scarred from severe injuries to her leg and ankle when they were caught in an unguarded conveyor system.
The building was formed by a series of 15 grain silos, laid out in two rows, with a narrow corridor at ground level separating the two rows and a high walkway on the fourth floor of the building, across the top of the silos. The corridor housed a chain and flight conveyor into which grain could be emptied from the silos and transported around the building.
One of the jobs required Miss L colleague to climb into a silo from the high level walkway so that he could clean it out. The chain and flight conveyor was started before he entered the silo. The plan was that Miss L would stay at a walkway near the top of the silo to be “on hand” and telephone for help if her colleague got into any difficulty.
While there, she also sampled grain to test its moisture after being dried. However, she heard the chain making a strange sound and decided to make her way back to the ground floor to investigate.
Realising the sound was coming from the far end of the corridor she made her way along it. The narrow width of the corridor meant that she walk on top of the metal plates covering the chains of the conveyor as she walked along.
The court heard that she saw grain piling up at the end of the corridor near to a small door. She tried to open the door but it was blocked. As she made her way back along the corridor, she slipped and caught her left foot in the moving chainwork and was dragged by it.
Her colleague in the grain bin did not hear her shouts for help. She managed to free herself, got out of the building and telephoned for help.
Miss L suffered a serious degloving injury to her left leg and ankle. The ankle ligament complex was destroyed and the joint exposed, requiring extensive surgery, with more likely to be needed, leaving her with permanent scarring to her lower leg. She still suffers considerable pain, can only walk with the aid of a stick and fears she will never be able to work again.
An investigation into the incident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the chain and flight conveyor was recessed within a metal trough, offset to one side of the corridor and the floor space alongside was only eight inches wide. In order to walk along the corridor, workers had little choice but to walk with one foot on top of the conveyor cover and one to the side of it.
The conveyor had metal plates designed to be bolted in position above it, to protect persons from being caught in its moving parts, but several were found to be loose or missing, exposing the moving parts beneath.
There were also openings in the top cover of the conveyor to enable grain to pass through from the silos, but the size of the openings was such that a person’s foot could be inserted into the gap.
The investigation also found that movement within the corridor was endangered by poor lighting and an uneven floor surface as a result of an accumulation of grain which had spilled from the silos or conveyor.
A Prohibition Notice was issued after the incident to prevent any further work taking place in the grain drying building.
The farm was fined £35,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 2(2)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Source: HSE Website