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Tue March 02 2021

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Farmers not above construction law

22 Jul 14 The dangers of farmers who think construction safety laws don’t apply to them was highlighted by a case at Aberystwyth Magistrates Court yesterday (Monday 21st July).

The Health & Safety Executive prosecuted two brothers, Andrew Evans and his brother, David Evans, for breaches of construction safety on their farm.

Their negligence resulted in a contractor suffering serious brain injuries in a fall while carrying out building work.

The contractor was installing a floor over a slurry lagoon in a new barn at Gwarllwyn Farm, near Llandysul on 12 June 2012 when the floor panel he and a workman were standing on gave way, plunging them into the lagoon four metres below.

The court heard that the contractor was hired to create a cattle shed floor over an existing slurry lagoon. He erected concrete pillars in the slurry pit then put preformed concrete beams on top and laid concrete wall panels across the beams instead of panels specifically designed for flooring. These were to hold a slatted floor and cattle cubicles.

As the contractor and another workman were standing on one of the panels, it gave way, plunging them into the lagoon. The contractor suffered a head injury and was hospitalised for two month and he is still undergoing rehabilitation. The workman escaped without injury.

HSE found the two farmers had failed to appoint a construction design and management (CDM) co-ordinator. The brothers also did not have a principal contractor so had assumed that role, giving them the responsibility for planning, managing and monitoring the health and safety aspects of the construction work.

However, no design or construction plans existed and there was no risk assessment or agreed safe system of work. They also failed to check the contractor was suitably competent to do the work. The wall panels he used were unsuitable and the workmen he employed on site had no training or experience in construction.

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In addition, the brothers allowed the contractor to use an untrained crane driver, using a 25 tonne capacity crane that had gone without the required annual thorough examination for 10 ten years.

They also failed to supervise or monitor the construction work, which involved a lot of working at height. There were no suitable measures to prevent or mitigate any effects of a fall.

Andrew Evans, of Gwarllwyn Farm, Rhydlewis, Llandysul and David Evans of Esgair Tangwst, Rhydlewis each pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and were each fined a total of £9,000. Each was also ordered to pay costs of £3,560.

HSE inspector Phil Nicolle said after the hearing: “Farmers cannot ignore their legal duties for health and safety when arranging construction work on their farms. The contractor in this case suffered life-threatening injuries and has yet to make a full recovery.

“The Evans brothers were undertaking a major construction project and failed to make the crucial appointment of a construction design and management co-ordinator to advise them on their responsibilities and how to manage the project safely. They took on the responsibilities of a principal contractor for planning, managing and monitoring the health and safety aspects of the construction work, and in all these respects they failed significantly.

“If farmers use contractors for any work they simply cannot tell them what to do and let them get on with it. Both the client and the contractor have legal duties for health and safety that can’t be passed to each other by contract. This means they have to work with each other to make sure the job is done safely. Farmers must always question their contractors about their health and safety arrangements.”

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