View Full Version : Inquiry into farmers death-updated

21-Mar-13, 17:50
Safety measures would have made tragic outcome different - says accident investigator

No blame or culpability can be apportioned Sheriff Berry tells inquiry at Wick court

IF safety steps had been taken before repairs were carried out to the leaking roof of a Caithness barn, the outcome of a tragic fall could have been different.
That was the opinion of a Health and Safety Executive inspector who gave evidence at an inquiry today into the death of John Jack.
The 71 year-old- sustained serious head and chest injuries and died in hospital, at Wick after falling from the roof, at one of his farms, at Gothiegill, Murkle. His grandson, Alistair Gunn, had been assisting him re-roof the building and saw him fall about three metres to the ground below.
The inspector, Karen Wilson, who investigated the accident, the following day, told the hearing at Wick Sheriff Court, that if the roof work had been planned in advance and the necessary equipment installed, the outcome would “not have have been as serious as it was.”
Ms Wilson said there was plenty safety information available from the Health and Safety Executive and on the web, about the steps that could be taken to avoid a fall or at least limit injuries if one did occur.
She added that the standard practice of placing hay bales, below the area of operations - these were available elsewhere on the farm -would have helped to break Mr Jack’s fall.
Ms Wilson added that 13 per cent of the deaths in agricultural industry, came from falls from heights.
The inquiry heard that Mr Jack was in partnership with his wife Sheila, in their three-farms operation.
She was on her way home from Thurso when she learned of the accident and went straight to Caithness General Hospital where her husband of 44 years had been admitted, a little after 3pm.
Mrs Jack spoke to the medical staff and told the inquiry: “They said he was pretty bad but they were trying to save his life.”
Summing up, senior fiscal depute David Barclay said that it was perhaps easy with hindsight to look back on a situation and say that things could have been done differently or better.
He went on: “What is done, is done and we have to reflect on what has happened and see if there are any potential benefits that will prevent this happening to anyone else in the future.”
Mr Barclay posed the question-“could the accident have been avoided? There were hay bales available on the farm which might have mitigated the fall onto the concrete surface. But he suggested it would have been impractical to cover every cushion point with the hay but went on: “While it was not the perfect solution the reasonable protection was available and could have been used.”
It was a factor he commended to Sheriff Andrew Berry as one worthy of some consideration.
Mr Barclay said that maybe some additional thought could have gone into the system of working.
He added: “Perhaps those working at heights should be aware that there is a lot of information available and it should be considered before any such work is undertaken.”
Sheriff Berry said that there was “no mystery” about what had happened and “no culpability or blame to be apportioned”
Looking towards to Mrs Jack and her family and friends in the public benches, he said: “The accident was a terrible, sudden tragedy for all of you and a much wider group of people and anyone associated with this matter would be fully aware of that.”
The sheriff said it was appropriate that he would make a determination so that people might be able to reflect if any lessons could be learned in the future.
He said it had been clear from the evidence that Mr Jack had been “an experienced and conscientious farmer with many skills.”
The sheriff will issue his determination in writing, in due course.