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Farm partnership fined after death of worker in tragic North Cumbria accident

The scene of the accident after improvements were made. Mr Toppin stepped out of the sliding door on the left

A NORTH Cumbria farm partnership has been fined £100,000 for flouting health and safety law after an employee died in a tragic tractor accident.

Stephen Toppin, a 57-year-old farm labourer, suffered fatal head injuries while working at Wragmire Bank, near Cumwhinton, Carlisle, on the morning of January 26 last year.

Mr Toppin, of Penrith – whose main job was to rear calves – stepped out of a livestock shed and directly into the path of a tractor towing a straw-laden trailer as it travelled through a narrow passageway which ran between buildings on the busy dairy farm.

Carlisle Crown Court heard how the teenage tractor driver was “not in any way at fault”.

After reporting the incident, farm partnership J. S. Wood and Son was charged with – and admitted – a health and safety breach. It accepted failing to ensure that the farm workplace “was organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles could circulate in a safe manner”.

Prosecutor David Temkin told the court: “The defendant hadn’t undertaken any – or any proper – workplace transport risk assessment.” Had such an assessment been done, it would have identified that calf shed exits led directly into the main traffic route, creating “the highest risk area”. It would have taken into account that Mr Toppin was 70 per cent deaf, and wore a hearing aid.

J. S. Wood and Son had since “entirely” complied with improvement notices issued by the Health and Safety Executive, introducing speed limits and warning signs – and also “gone beyond ” its obligations by creating a pedestrian walkway.

The partnership was represented in court today by 63-year-old John Wood, who was said to remain “incredibly distressed” by the tragedy. Judge James Adkin fined the partnership £100,000, and ordered it to pay £7,310.80 costs.

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