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Farm fined following death of worker in silo.


A farm was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £22,000 costs after the owner’s son died when he sunk under a mountain of wheat while cleaning out a storage tank.

Arthur Mason, 21, sunk under tonnes of grain after climbing into the silo. The farming business, Maurice Mason Ltd, was fined at Norwich Crown Court after admitting failing to ensure health, safety and welfare at work.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecutor, Sarah Le Fevre, told the court external contractors had previously carried out the work and would empty the silos before cleaning them.

But this changed, and staff had to enter the silo, stand on the grain surface and clean the exposed sides.

Farm worker Mark Funge rushed to help Arthur when he heard "muffled" screams from the grain silo he was cleaning.

Ms Le Fevre said: "Mark Funge looked in the grain bin and saw Arthur's hands and the top of his hat. He climbed into the silo to try and pull Arthur free but said that the more grain he moved away, the more fell in."

She added that, at the time of the accident, staff had no health and safety qualifications, including the person in charge of the farm’s health and safety management.

Defending, Mark Balysz, said standing on static grain had been common practice at the farm for more than 50 years. He said that although he was representing the company, it was impossible to ignore Hugh Mason was Arthur's father.

A victim personal statement, read to the court by Arthur's mother, Kay Mason Billig, said: "I would like to thank the emergency services who tried so hard to save him. Farming accidents and accidents of this type involving enclosed spaces are alarmingly common.

"I urge farmers to take note of this verdict and look hard at their safety procedures. No one should have to lose their life in such a preventable accident. For the sake of a few thousand pounds spent on health and safety, Arthur would still be alive today.

"Maurice Mason Ltd was prosecuted but culpability lies with the management who are ultimately responsible for Arthur's death. His father, Hugh Mason, will have to live with that for the rest of his life."

Speaking after the hearing, principal inspector for HSE, Norman Macritchie,  said: "Grain can behave like quicksand with liquid-like properties and may develop void spaces. Once anyone starts to sink, it is extremely difficult to stop becoming engulfed even if help is at hand.

"HSE's message to the farming community is clear: don't walk on bulk grain and don't let anybody else do so either."