A Dunblane, Scotland farming company recently felt the wrath of local court officials, this after being fined in a case where one of its workers was saddled with permanent scarring.
According to information from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the worker suffered major injuries to both her leg and ankle when they became trapped in an unguarded conveyor system.
Perth Sheriff Court officials were informed that Wanda Lustig, 34, was working for Blackford Farms Ltd as a general farm worker when the incident happened in October of 2011.
Lustig, a Polish national, was working with a colleague in a grain-drying building at Townhead Farm, Greenloaning near Braco, Perthshire, which was demolished as a result of the incident.
The building was put together via a series of 15 grain silos, laid out in a pair of 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.
As part of the work load that day, one of Lustig's colleague had to climb into a silo from the high level walkway so that he could clean it out. The chain and flight conveyor was begun prior to him entering the silo. The plan was that Lustig would stay at a walkway near the top of the silo to be "on hand" and telephone for assistance if her colleague required aid.
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. Given the notion that the sound was coming from the far end of the corridor, Lustig 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.
Victim’s Left Foot Gets Caught in Moving Chainwork
The court was told that Lustig witnessed 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 screams for assistance. She managed to free herself, got out of the building and telephoned for help.
Lustig was left with 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 by HSE discovered 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.
Poor Lighting, Uneven Floor Surface Contribute to Mishap
The investigation also led to the discovery of 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.
Blackford Farms Ltd, Burnside of Balhaldie, Dunblane, was fined nearly $53,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 2(2)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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