‘Avoidable’ Hay Bale Accident Results in Farmer charged with £41,000 Fine

A Surrey farming partnership faced a fine and costs totalling nearly £41,000 following a “easily avoidable” health and safety breach that resulted in a young farmworker sustaining serious injuries.

Christopher Rolfe, employed by F Conisbee and Sons Ltd in East Horsley, was crushed by hay bales, causing fractures to his pelvis, ankle, and four ribs. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the bales had been stacked incorrectly on an unsuitable surface.

During a magistrates hearing in Staines, Middlesex, on 15 May, it was disclosed that the bales were placed on pallets to elevate them from a damp floor. When Mr. Rolfe removed the pallets, five bales collapsed, trapping him underneath.

Emergency services were alerted by a passing dog walker who heard Mr. Rolfe’s cries for help. He was airlifted to the hospital for emergency surgery and underwent months of rehabilitation before returning to work in farming.

F Conisbee and Sons admitted to breaching Regulation 10(4) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £36,000, in addition to being ordered to pay £4,986 in costs.

The HSE highlighted that the bales were improperly secured, unevenly stacked, and susceptible to water damage. The company also failed to establish safe procedures for unstacking bales, neglecting to keep the stack stable as bales were removed.

HSE inspector Sally Parkes emphasised that the accident could have been prevented if the farm had followed proper stacking guidelines. She stressed the importance of having knowledgeable oversight during the stacking process and adhering to industry safety protocols.