Farming business fined for multiple health and safety risks

A farming business has been fined for multiple health and safety breaches which placed employees and others at risk over many years, in an attempt to cut costs.

Seymour Stevens Limited operate a beef and arable farm in Faversham, Kent.

A site visit carried out in November 2022 identified multiple, serious health and safety failings.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found one of the barns, used as a through route by an employee, was deemed unsafe to enter due to its poor structural state. Seymour Stevens Ltd were aware of this but had taken the decision not to repair the shed due to the costs, but had continued to allow its use. A number of electrical faults were also identified within that shed.

In another shed, the roof was insecurely fixed and was being weighed down with a straw bale in an attempt to prevent it from moving. Roof sheeting was also in poor condition and state of disrepair; in some cases, even falling from buildings.

Bull pens were broken and rusty and concerns were raised about the suitability of these to contain a bull. During the Christmas period in 2022, a bull had managed to escape the farm and was brought back to site by the Police.

Earlier in the same year, the company had been invited to attend a paid-for “Preparing for Inspection” courses which have been developed in partnership with industry. They didn’t take up that offer, missing the opportunity to learn more about their health and safety responsibilities and to better manage the risks they faced.

Seymour Stevens Limited pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. act 1974 and was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £4,830 in costs at a hearing at Maidstone Magistrates’ Court on 24 April 2024.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Peter Bruce said: “While agriculture accounts for just one percent of the working population, it accounts for about 20 per cent of workplace fatalities.

“In the case at Seymour Stevens farm, there were failings to manage health and safety risks associated with animals and falling objects – two of the five most common causes of fatal injuries in the agriculture sector.

“Employees and members of the public were being put at risk, despite previous warnings having been given to the company by their staff.

“It is important that employers maintain their workplaces and equipment to suitable standards to ensure that employees, visitors and members of the public are not put at risk.”

HSE is focusing on the dangers of livestock as part of this year’s Your Farm, Your Future campaign relaunched this week. The campaign has advice on working with livestock, and is hosted on its Your Farm Your Future campaign website, to assist farmers and workers and keep them safe.

This prosecution was brought by HSE enforcement lawyer, Jon Mack and supported by HSE paralegal officer, Lucy Gallagher.

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