Stanthorne farming firm fined over worker’s death

T Lea Sherwin, a farming company in Middlewich, has been fined £50,000 after a farm worker suffered fatal injuries when a 1.5 tonne concrete panel fell on him.

Sean Bennett was helping to build a new cowshed at Yew Tree Farm in Stanthorne, which is owned by T Lea Sherwin, when the incident happened on 8 December 2010. The 30-year-old from Winsford died in hospital two days later.

HSE T Lea Sherwin concrete panelT Lea Sherwin was prosecuted by the Health & Safety Executive after an investigation into Bennett's death found the lifting equipment was entirely unsuitable for the job. Liverpool Crown Court heard the company specialises in dairy farming but chose to build the new cattle shed without the assistance of a specialist construction company.

Bennett was asked to help lift concrete panels into place to form the walls of the new cowshed. This was done by suspending panels from the farm's telehandler vehicle, using chains and bolts to move them into place.

The court was told the firm failed to carry out a proper assessment of the risks, or to make sure a safe system of work was in place. As they lifted the panel, the bolts attached to the lifting chains snapped and the panel fell onto Bennett.

T Lea Sherwin, of Coalpit Lane in Stanthorne, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £28,585 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 on 12 May 2014.

Jane Carroll, the investigating inspector at HSE, said: "The company is experienced in farming – not construction – but decided it was capable of building a new cowshed. Sadly, Sean lost his life as a result.

"The project was poorly planned, and the lifting equipment provided wasn't capable of raising concrete panels weighing 1.5 tonnes. It was therefore inevitable that the bolts would snap when the panel was being lifted.

"The firm should have realised it was out of its depth and brought in a specialist contractor to carry out the work, rather than carrying on regardless and hoping for the best."

Sean Bennett's mother Anne Robinson said: "Nothing can replace the loss of Sean. We have been left with a life sentence and sincerely hope that the prosecution may stop the same thing happening to another family."

A spokesman for T Lea Sherwin said: "We are very sorry for the family concerned."

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