An estate in Scotland has been heavily fined and ordered to pay costs after a worker was killed in an accident at work.
Buccleuch Estates Limited was fined £140,000 by the Sheriff’s Court after one of its workers was killed by a falling tree in January 2011.
Mr Ross Findlay, who was then aged 49, worked for the Buccleuch Estates as a signalman until his accident at work on 11 January 2011. On the day in question Mr Findlay was working as a signalman between two of his colleagues, one of whom was cutting trees down with a chainsaw and the other who was pulling the felled trees into a pile using a tractor with a winch. Mr Findlay’s job was to signal to his fell workers what to do and when but failed to take appropriate safety measures whilst he was doing so – he should have been standing at least two tree lengths away from where the trees were being felled but did not appreciate distances well because of his learning difficulties. He was therefore standing within the two tree exclusion zone when he was struck and killed by a falling tree on 11 January 2011.
The Health and Safety Executive subsequently undertook an investigation of the accident and found that the estate was in breach of a number of health and safety regulations. The HSE identified that there were the following health and safety failures by the organisation (among others):
- A failure to carry out proper risk assessments for felling operations
- A failure to provide safe and suitable equipment
- A failure to provide sufficient training and supervision
The HSE therefore recommended that the estate be prosecuted for these health and safety breaches.
The case came to the Dumfries Sheriff Court on 18 December 2013. The Buccleuch Estates Limited pleaded guilty to breaching s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was, as a result, fined £140,000.
Neither The Buccleuch Estates Limited nor its criminal defence solicitors appear to have commented after the sentencing.
Following the case, HSE inspector Aileen Jardine stated: “This informal and unsafe way of working had been in place unchallenged and not updated for over 15 years with the Estate making no efforts to follow industry safety guidelines or to even accurately assess the risks its workers faced.”
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