Published: 10:48, 30 November 2021
| Updated: 15:22, 30 November 2021
A Tonbridge farm has been fined £60,000 after an accident in which one of its employees was killed.
J & D Foster Farms, of Fishponds Farm, Upper Hayesden Lane, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in a case brought by the Health and Safety Executive and heard before Folkestone magistrates.
The fine relates to an accident on April 30, 2019, when employee George Murrell was crushed by a grain drying tunnel at Fishpond Farm.
The HSE investigation found that J & D Foster Farms did not ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees and that the system of work that was in place was intrinsically unsafe.
The work involved dismantling the grain drying tunnel while working underneath it.
The structure had heavy aggregate across the upper walkway.
Once the structure was compromised, it fell, crushing Mr Murrell.
The farm company was additionally ordered to pay £6,731 costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Joanne Williams said: "This incident has resulted in a young man losing his life in what was a wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to identify their own competencies in what was basically demolition work.
"All too often those working in the agriculture industry take on tasks which they are not competent to do. As in this case, this work can and does result in serious and even fatal injuries.
"Every year many people are killed or seriously injured within agriculture.
"Those working in the agricultural sector need to ensure they consider their competency when undertaking unusual activities on farms such as dismantling and demolition.
"Agriculture accounts for 1% of Britain’s workforce, but 20% of worker deaths, which is an extremely grim statistic.
“Abnormal work on the farm needs to be assessed as to whether the job is within the capability of the farm workers.
"For demolition work, as in this case, it will likely be safer and more efficient to contract out to professionals who understand the risks associated with demolition and dismantling and can properly plan and carry out the job using the correct equipment.”
Mr Murrell was 21 when he died. Originally from Tring, in Hertfordshire, he was a keen rugby player for Tring Rugby Club for 10 years, before going to Plumpton Agricultural College.
At the time of his death, the rugby club paid tribute to an "amazing, genuine and kind young man".
The club said: "He was a lovely, smiley boy who grew up into a smashing young man working his way through life doing what he loved, farming.
"He was a lovely runner and a crunching tackler, who just enjoyed being one of the lads and like all good players enjoyed the after match fun and tours as much as playing."
Instead of flowers, mourners at his funeral were asked to donate to Rennie Grove Hospice Care, raising £3,451 for the charity.