Apple Farm Boss Convicted of Manslaughter
Date: 19th June 2015 | By: Claire Malley | Categories: Health and Safety
An apple farm boss has been convicted of manslaughter after two workers died when they were sent into a nitrogen-filled storage tank while holding their breath.
Scott Cain and Ashley Clarke suffocated in the apple container, which was filled with nitrogen, and oxygen levels were only at 1%. The industry “golden rule” is to fully ventilate the container and only go in after oxygen levels reach at least 19.5%.
The two men got in through a small hatch in the roof of the sealed container, trying to retrieve apples to enter into an agricultural competition. Mr Cain, 23, and Mr Clarke, 24, who were both assistants at the farm, were found lying on crates of apples.
Andrew Stocker, who was the boss of the fruit farm, had encouraged the practice nicknamed “scuba diving”. Stocker had denied the manslaughter charge, but did admit to exposing the men to a risk of death. He was on holiday in the Maldives at the time of the incident, but had left instructions for the workers.
Mr Cain, 23, had been working at Blackmoor Estates since 2009 as a pack house assistant. Mr Clarke, 24, had been working as an assistant checking the quality of fruit for eight months.
Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples & Pears Ltd, which represents apple growers throughout the UK, said the industry was “appalled and shocked” by the “tragic incident”.
All operatives had reviewed their operating procedures, equipment, and security since the deaths, he said.