Teenager died in ‘avoidable’ grain silo accident

The dangers of working in grain silos were well known: HSE

A teenage worker died in an “entirely avoidable tragedy” involving a grain silo, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The 19-year old Zach Dean Fox was trying to clear a blockage in a grain bin in Hawick, Roxburghshire when the accident happened on August 1 2014.

Jedburgh Sheriff Court heard the fatal accident occurred at Seamore Farming’s Deanfoot farm, as a grain bin was being cleaned. The bins needed to be cleaned before moving from one type of grain to another, in an operation that happened about four times a year, the court was told.

Blockages sometimes occur in the exit holes, at the bottom of the bin, which allow grain to escape onto a chain conveyor belt. The teenager was trying to clear such a blockage while it still contained a quantity of grain.

Died as a result of asphyxiation

During the operation, the worker became immersed in the free-flowing grain and died as a result of asphyxiation.

The system of work in place to clear blockages in the grain bin was “inherently and obviously unsafe”, according to an HSE investigation.

Seamore Farming, of Deanfoot Farm, Denholm, Hawick was fined £45,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Speaking after sentencing, HSE inspector Allison Aitken said: “This was an entirely avoidable tragedy, which resulted in the death of a young man.

‘Avoidable tragedy’

“This was an entirely avoidable tragedy, which resulted in the death of a young man.”

  • Allison Aitken, HSE inspector 

‘The dangers’

“The dangers associated with working within the confined space of grain silos and clearing blockages in grain silos are well known within the farming industry and well documented in HSE guidance.”

Farmers should ensure that they have a safe system of work in place for clearing blockages in grain silos which avoids the need for anyone to enter inside them, she said.

“This can be easily achieved, where necessary, by making some minor modifications to working practices to enable the task to be completed safely from outside the grain silo.”

HSE advice on working safely in grain silos is available here.

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