Essex farming company fined after trailer death

A Southminster farmers’ co-operative has been sentenced after a worker was killed when the tailgate of a hydraulic trailer fell and struck him across the neck.

David Dow, 63, of Cedar Grove, Burnham-on-Crouch, had leaned into the back of a tipper trailer to talk to a colleague inside when the tailgate closed suddenly, causing him fatal crush injuries.

His employer, Dengie Crops Ltd, which produces animal feeds, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the procedure for fitting the tailgates was unsafe and the company did not have effective measures in place to manage health and safety at their premises.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard today (25 July) that on 1 May 2012 tailgate extensions were being fitted on three trailers to equip them to collect crops from the fields and deliver to site to be dried and processed.

Mr Dow, who had worked for the firm for eight years, was not involved in the fitting of the tailgates, but had approached the third trailer to speak to colleagues who were carrying out the work.

The trailer had just been fitted with its tailgate extension when Mr Dow leant into it to talk with a colleague who was checking the fitting from the inside. He was unaware that another worker in the tractor cab had just operated the controls to close the tailgate. The tailgate closed so quickly Mr Dow did not have time to react to the warning and duck out. He died at the scene from his injuries.

The court was told that the fatal incident could easily have been avoided had barriers been in place around the trailer to prevent unauthorised access.

HSE found that not only had the company failed to devise and implement a safe system of work for fitting tailgate extensions, but a number of dangerous practices were happening routinely throughout the site.

For instance, CCTV cameras filmed an employee standing on a stack of pallets to clean equipment in the vicinity of reversing lorries at around the same time as Mr Dow was fatally injured.

HSE served a number of enforcement notices on Dengie Crops Ltd to address the safety failings.

Magistrates heard the company had been prosecuted on three previous occasions for safety failings recently after an employee’s arm was amputated whilst cleaning a blockage in a crop drier, another suffered a broken arm when it became caught in a conveyor and a third suffered burns whilst operating the bagging plant.

Dengie Crops Ltd, of Hall Road, Asheldham, Southminster, Essex, was fined a total of £100,000 and ordered to pay £28,437 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

After the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Vicky Fletcher said:

“The tragic death of David Dow could easily have been avoided had Dengie Crops Ltd properly considered the risks associated with the installation of the tailgate extensions and put simple and low cost safety measures in place, such as safety barriers around the trailer during the work.

“This unsafe system of work went unchecked by a company that had failed to put in place robust arrangements for managing health and safety, despite having been prosecuted by HSE on three previous occasions.

“This incident should serve as a reminder that employers need to ensure they have adequate measures in place to manage health and safety at their workplace. In particular, they should always adequately assess the risk of non-routine operations to ensure suitable precautions are taken.”

For information and guidance on Health and Safety within the agricultural sector, visit:

 Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
  3. Regulation 5 (1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states: “Every employer shall make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, having regard to the nature of his activities and the size of his undertaking, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.”
  4. For further HSE news releases visit

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