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Farm Worker Dies Clearing Blockage in Grain Bin

A farming company has appeared in Jedburgh Sheriff Court charged with health and safety breaches after a young man was killed while trying to clear a blockage in a grain bin at a farm in Hawick.

The court heard that large metal containers known as bins were used on the farm for storing grain during harvest time. There was an exit space at the bottom of the bin to allow the grain to escape onto a chain conveyor belt. The bins needed to be cleaned out before moving from one type of grain to another, which the court was told happened around four times a year.

It is not uncommon for blockages to occur in the exit holes at the bottom of the bin and the 19-year-old worker was trying to clear such a blockage from within the bin while it still contained a quantity of grain. He became immersed in the free flowing grain and died as a result of asphyxiation.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found the system of work in place to clear blockages in the grain bin was inherently and obviously unsafe.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £45,000.

“This was an entirely avoidable tragedy which resulted in the death of a young man,” commented HSE inspector Allison Aitken. “The dangers associated with working within the confined space of grain silos and clearing blockages in grain silos are well known within the farming industry and well documented in HSE guidance.”

“Farmers should ensure that they have a safe system of work in place for clearing blockages in grain silos that avoids the need for anyone to enter inside them,” she added. “This can be easily achieved, where necessary, by making some minor modifications to working practices to enable the task to be completed safely from outside the grain silo.”

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