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Fife farming company fined after worker loses two toes

A farming company has been fined after a worker had to have two toes from his right foot amputated, when he became entangled in machinery inside a grain reception pit.

On 4 September 2009, due to heavy rain, the grain reception pit at the premises of R Todd & Company at Blacketyside Farm, Fife, had filled with about twelve inches of water. Peter Ednie, 26, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, after discussions with Robert Todd, was trying to empty rainwater from the pit using a bucket. His foot became caught in the unsheathed part of a screw auger inside the pit.

A screw auger is a type of conveyor used to transport grain between the different parts of a grain drying system and consists of a large screw which rotates inside a steel tube. Part of it has to be exposed to collect grain and transport it. Although the screw auger was switched off and not rotating, the power to it had not been isolated before Mr Ednie entered the pit.

While Mr Ednie passed the buckets of water to a colleague standing outside the pit, Mr Todd was cleaning a nearby grain drying bin. This required him to unload the bin and remove left over grain by activating a different screw auger conveyor that ran from the drying bin to the storage bin.

But when he went to the control panel he mistakenly activated the switch for the screw auger inside the grain reception pit where Mr Ednie was working. The auger started to rotate, trapping Mr Ednie's right foot.

Mr Ednie's small toe had been severed and his fourth toe was badly injured. He underwent surgery to have the fourth toe amputated and a metal splinter was also removed from his foot. His foot still feels constantly cold, he has no feeling in his third toe. This means he sometimes finds it difficult to walk due to the pain in his foot and also walks with a limp.

Mr Ednie was not able to return to work for six weeks and now no longer works for the company.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that there was no risk assessment in relation to any activity that required employees working inside the grain reception pit.

A generic risk assessment document obtained during the HSE investigation did state that no unguarded machines should be cleaned unless they were switched off, but did not explain that power to the machinery must at all times be isolated. It was also found that at no point during his employment had Mr Ednie been given the opportunity to read or consider this risk assessment.

At Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court today (Tuesday 11 October 2011) R Todd & Company was fined £20,000 after it pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

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