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Devon farming partnership sentenced after worker killed

The farming partnership of MJ and CEH Arthur has been fined after a worker was crushed to death by a digger.

Plymouth Magistrate’s Court heard how, on 15 May 2015, 63-year-old Richard Doble was working at Dipford Farm, Tiverton, when he was crushed between the rear bucket of the digger and a stone wall. He had been working alongside one of the Arthur family members to move an oil drum on the farm. There was an ongoing problem with the ignition on the digger and in order to start it the ignition had to be turned on in the cab, the bonnet opened, and the engine hotwired with a piece of wire.

The incident occurred when Mr Arthur was attempting to “hotwire” the vehicle. Mr Doble had turned the ignition on from the cab then, unknown to his colleague, had got out and gone around the other side. The vehicle moved suddenly resulting in Mr Doble being crushed between the rear bucket of the vehicle and the wall. An ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital. He died from crush injuries the following day.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the digger had a number of serious defects but there was no evidence of planned maintenance or the regular repair of defects. It was also found there was no evidence of risk assessment or safe systems of work on the farm. Mr Doble had worked on the farm for 35 years and was regarded as the digger driver, although there is no evidence of formal training. A number of other vehicles and equipment on the farm were also found to have defects indicative of poor maintenance over a period of time.

MJ and CEH Arthur of Dipford Farm, Shillingford pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and has been fined £53,334 and ordered to pay costs of £13,871.50.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Emma O’Hara said: “This case highlights the importance of regular, proactive maintenance and inspection of work equipment. In this case, MJ and CEH Arthur failed to effectively maintain their equipment and this led to the tragic death of Mr Doble.

"This incident could so easily have been avoided had the dutyholder simply carried out maintenance of the vehicles in use on the farm to ensure that it was safe to use.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain's national regulator for workplace health and safety. We seek to prevent work-related death, injury and ill health through regulatory actions that range from influencing behaviours across whole industry sectors through to targeted interventions on individual businesses. These activities are supported by globally recognised scientific expertise.
  2. Further information is available about the legislation referred to in this case.
  3. Latest HSE press releases.
Updated: 2018-12-11