A farm has been sentenced after a young man was killed while trying to clear a blockage in a grain bin in Hawick.
Jedburgh Sheriff Court heard how the 19 year old was working for Seamore Farming at their premises at Deanfoot farm in Hawick. The court was told that large metal containers known as bins were used on the farm for storing grain during harvest time.
There was an exit space at the bottom of the bin to allow the grain to escape onto a chain conveyor belt. The bins needed to be cleaned out before moving from one type of grain to another, which the court was told happened around four times a year.
It is not uncommon for blockages to occur in the exit holes at the bottom of the bin and the young man was trying to clear such a blockage from within the bin while it still contained a quantity of grain. He became immersed in the free flowing grain and died as a result of asphyxiation.
An investigation by the HSE into the incident found the system of work in place to clear blockages in the grain bin was inherently and obviously unsafe.
Seamore Farming, of Denholm, Hawick, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £45,000.
After sentencing the HSE inspector on the case commented this was an entirely avoidable tragedy which resulted in the death of a young man. 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.
The HSE has stressed that 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.
Frustratingly, 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.