A Lincolnshire vegetable farmer has been prosecuted for safety failings after a mother of two was killed when she was run over by a reversing tractor trailer.
Asta Juodiene, 46, of Boston, died while working in a field for M Baker (Produce) Ltd at Grant’s Farm, Leverton, just off the A52 near Boston on 15 May 2012.
Mrs Juodiene, originally from Lithuania, was one of 10 agency workers preparing to start work planting Brussels sprouts seedlings.
Lincoln Crown Court heard today (21 July) that Mrs Juodiene’s foot was caught under a rear wheel after a worker reversed the tractor and trailer full of module plants towards a planting machine so it could be loaded. Her foot was caught under the wheel at the back of the reversing trailer and she was pulled underneath its wheels.
Her colleagues were unable to pull her free and she died at the scene from head and chest injuries, leaving a husband, Vaidas and two daughters, Samanta and Agne.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found M Baker (Produce) Ltd had failed to carry out a written risk assessment or devise a safe procedure for reversing a vehicle when rear vision was restricted.
HSE found there was a lack of relevant information, instruction and training provided to the workers in the risks from moving vehicle in the fields. In addition, there was a lack of communication between the driver and the other workers in the field, and there was no safe procedure to follow for either drivers or workers during a reversing vehicle manoeuvre.
Since the incident, M Baker (Produce) Ltd no longer carries out the reversing manoeuvre.
M Baker (Produce) Ltd of Main Road, Old Leake, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £18,477 in costs.
After the case, HSE inspector Neil Ward said:
“This tragic incident shows what happens when risks from workplace transport are not controlled, as happened with M Baker Produce.
“The knock-on effects of this preventable tragedy cannot be underestimated. A husband has been left devastated and two daughters were left without a mother.
“Workplace transport is a frequent source of serious or fatal incidents and employers should not be complacent about the risks. Reversing can be particularly hazardous and should be avoided where possible. A careful assessment of the risks will help identify the best way to control risks from workplace transport.”
Mrs Juodiene’s daughter, Samanta Augulyte, said:
“It is nearly two years without our mother in our lives but a day does not pass without us thinking of her. The most difficult thing is to explain to my five-year-old son why his grandmother is not able to call or visit any more.
“Having lost her, a big wound has opened in our hearts which will not heal for a long time to come. All of us have to leave this world one day but definitely not in the circumstances my mum did.
“The loss of our mum was a great shock for our dad and it badly affected my sister as she was unable to finish her studies. Our lives have changed massively. I miss my mum’s laughter, her good mood, those brown eyes full of kindness and love and her warm hugs. But I believe she can see and hear me and she knows she will always stay in my heart.”
Nearly a quarter of all deaths involving vehicles at work occur during reversing. Most of these accidents can be avoided by taking simple precautions. Further information is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/information/reversing.htm
Notes to Editors
- 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. www.hse.gov.uk
- Regulation 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”