Farm death ‘could have been avoided’

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A Grandfather was crushed under a farm vehicle being driven by a man who had received just 15 minutes training in handling the machine, a fatal accident inquiry has revealed.

The inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of George Thompson, who died after he was struck by a reversing telehandler at Greendykes Farm in Macmerry, East Lothian, in November 2009, was held at Haddington Sheriff Court last month.

The 57-year-old, who ran East Lothian Land Services – which carried out landscaping and other services – suffered fractured ribs and injuries to the vertebrae and pelvic bone, which caused haemorrhaging.

Sheriff Peter Braid said the injuries were caused when Mr Thompson was struck by a telescopic materials handler being driven by David Bisset, an employee of Robert Steven, the owner of Greendykes Farm.

He added that Mr Thompson’s death might have been avoided had “reasonable precautions” been taken. These included proper training in the safe operation of the tele-handler and the installation of CCTV – such as a camera on top of the vehicle pointing towards its rear, along with a monitor in the cab – to remove the risk of a blind spot.

He accepted that the 15 minutes of training Mr Bisset said he had received was inadequate. A health and safety expert said thorough training on the machine would take between three and five days.

The inquiry heard that Mr Thompson had been levelling ground in preparation for the laying of monoblocking at Greendykes Farm when the accident took place.

He was picking up stones in the area being flattened while Mr Bisset, who had lost sight of Mr Thompson, was reversing the telehandler at a speed of no more than 3 to 5 mph.

Mr Steven told the inquiry that he had immediately arranged for his employees, including Mr Bisset, to undertake a training course.

Following the release of the determination, he said: “We were all devastated by the death of Mr Thompson, who was not only a valued and skilled worker, but also a friend.”

One of six children, Mr Thompson was born in Drem, in East Lothian, and moved to Macmerry when he was four years old. He was a pupil at Macmerry Primary School and Ross High School in Tranent.

He left behind a partner, Joan Fynan; two children, Kelly and Barry; and two grandchildren, Olivia and Lucie.

laura.cummings@edinburghnews.com