Turf company ordered to pay £100,000 over worker's death
A YORK company must pay £100,000 for failing to maintain equipment that crushed a father-of-two to death.
Specialist turf company Inturf was prosecuted after driver Lee Woodhouse, 30, of Wilberfoss, was struck and then run over by a 27 tonne harvester as he walked alongside it to observe its cut off mechanism in September 2011.
Mr Woodhouse had worked for Inturf for a year, and was operating the machinery in a field off Feoffee Common Lane in Barmby Moor, East Yorkshire, when he began having difficulties with the equipment.
Later that afternoon, a nearby resident heard a constant noise in the field and saw the machine had stopped against a tree with its wheels in motion, but there was no driver.
Paramedics attended but Mr Woodhouse was pronounced dead at the scene.
He is survived by his wife, Anna, and a young son and daughter.
A family statement said: "The death of Lee has left a huge vacuum in all our lives.
"He was full of life, sincere, helpful and a loving family man, very involved in all aspects of family life.
“He is deeply missed. Lee’s life centered around his family, friends and his job and our family has been left devastated by his tragic loss.”
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) case at Hull Crown Court heard the company was responsible for a catalogue of safety failings.
A wire link had been put across the terminals of a relay switch, which failed to cut off the machinery if the driver left his seat.
The harvester had been operated with the safety features disabled since 2009.
The HSE found the company did not train operators and their supervisors properly, protect them from dangerous parts of the machines, identify risks or make sure they were checked and maintained regularly, or implement safe working systems.
Speaking after the sentencing HSE Inspector Andrea Jones said: "This was a tragic incident that has had devastating, and life-changing effects, on the whole family, particularly Lee’s wife, two small children and his parents. The incident was entirely preventable."
She added: “Life will never be the same again for family members left behind after a work-related death.
"And in the case of Lee Woodhouse, two young children will now have to grow up without their dad."
Turfgrass Services International Ltd, trading as Inturf, of The Chestnuts, Wilberfoss, York, was fined £67,000 and ordered to pay £33,000 in costs for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The company admitted the offence at an earlier hearing.
In a written statement, Inturf’s managing directors Alex and Stephen Edwards said: “We respect the court’s decision and accept the fine.
“No doubt it was a difficult day for the family, and Inturf’s thoughts are with them and always have been.
“All the relevant and necessary (safety) steps were taken some time ago.
“We take health and safety very seriously and it is a priority at Inturf to keep our employees safe at all times, and we don’t take our responsibility lightly.”