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Leading horse trainer in court after worker's fall

The owner of racing stables in North Yorkshire has been prosecuted after a yard worker fell more than three metres through a skylight in a stable block.

Paul Cussons, who had worked at Thorndale Farm near Richmond for 26 years, was asked by trainer and bloodstock agent Alan Swinbank to cut down some overhanging trees above an ageing stable block before planned renovation work.

Northallerton Magistrates' Court heard today (29 February) that Mr Cussons, who lives in Burrill, a village outside Bedale, had not been trained in either the use of a chainsaw or in how to work safely at height.

He took a chainsaw onto the roof of the stable block but as he was sawing through the branches he slipped on some leaves and fell through a skylight, landing on the concrete floor below. He broke both shoulder blades, fractured a rib and punctured a lung.

The Health and Safety Executive investigated and two Prohibition Notices were served on Mr Swinbank preventing further work activity with the chainsaw and stopping work at height.

The court was told that 16 months after the incident on 2 July 2010, Mr Cussons was still suffering from the injuries and had been unable to return to work. He had worked at Thorndale Farm in Melsonby as a driver for 16 years and the previous ten carrying out maintenance of the stable yards, gallops and grassland.

HSE Inspector Morag Irwin said:

"Mr Cussons was put at unacceptably high risk and has paid the price for being a 'willing worker'. Thankfully he did not lose his life but he has lost his livelihood and remains badly affected by the trauma of the incident to this day.

"We found that he had been using a chainsaw on the farm for some years but given he had no training and had woefully inadequate protective equipment, this tool should not have been available for him to use.

"Similarly he had been given no training on how to work at height and had no knowledge of how to plan the work so it was carried out as safely as possible. The combination of a chainsaw and working on a roof almost proved fatal.

"Had Mr Swinbank identified the risks involved in the job beforehand, he would have brought in a qualified firm of tree specialists. Sadly he did not and the result was devastating."

Mr Alan Swinbank, of Thorndale Farm, Melsonby, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £6,048 in costs.

The agricultural sector has the highest rate of fatalities of any other industry in Great Britain. The five year average rate of fatal injury is 0.7 per 100,000 for all workers. In agriculture, it is 9.6 per 100,000, much higher than any other industry. In 2010/11 there were 34 fatal injuries to workers.

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain's national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

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Issued on behalf of the Health & Safety Executive by COI News & PR Yorkshire and the Humber

Updated 2012-02-29