Norwich Crown Court heard how Arthur Mason was undertaking cleaning work in a grain bin at Hall Farm in Fincham – run by Maurice Mason – when the accident happened.
Mason was standing directly on the stored grain, using a broom to clean the inner surfaces of the bin. He began to sink into the grain, which was emptying slowly through a small opening at the bottom of the bin several feet below the surface.
The court heard how the movement of the grain could create a quicksand-like effect. Mason’s safety harness – fitted with a fall-arrest lanyard and attached to a fixed ladder inside of the bin – failed, causing him to sink deeper into the grain.
Engulfed in the grain
After alerting colleagues – who tried to assist – he swiftly became engulfed in the grain and subsequently drowned, despite rescue efforts by farmworkers and emergency services.
An investigation by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Maurice Mason Ltd failed to adequately identify and manage the deadly risks associated with cleaning grain stores.
There was no safe system of work in place for this task, nor had anyone involved been provided with suitable training in how to complete it safely.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £22,000.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Paul Unwin said: “This death could easily have been prevented if his employer had acted to identify and manage the risks involved, and to put a safe system of work in place.
“There should be little need for anyone to enter such grain bins as it may be reasonably practicable to clean them remotely from outside.”
The fine comes just over a year since Seamore Farming Ltd was fined £45,000 after a worker died in a grain solo.