A Wiltshire firm has been prosecuted for compromising worker safety after using a homemade harness system during a barn renovation project.

Ashton Farms Limited of Spiers Piece Farm were fined £4,000 for each charge (£8,000 in total) and ordered to pay costs of £3,986. Agricultural contractor Ashton Farms Limited, of Steeple Ashton, Trowbridge, exposed employees to a fall from height risk at Manor Farm Grittleton, on Alderton Road, in Chippenham.

Chippenham Magistrates Court heard that when a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Inspector visited the farm on 15 October last year, she found two workers installing a roof to an outbuilding without adequate edge protection or nets to prevent them from falling.

The court heard they were using an unvalidated homemade running line and harness system, which would not have prevented a fall and which was unlikely to have prevented injury should a fall have occurred.

Ashton Farms was previously served with a Prohibition Notice (PN) on 12 July 2010 at another farm after failing to take all reasonably practicable measures to plan and carry out work at height in a safe, controlled manner.

Speaking after the case HSE Inspector Annette Walker commented:

“In addition to serving the earlier Prohibition Notice, the Health and Safety Executive also had a meeting with Ashton Farms to ensure there was no margin for misunderstanding of the expected standards in working at height on roofs.

“This type of work poses a risk of serious injury and even death, and Ashton Farms could and should have ensured they had suitable protection in place whilst renovating the barn in Chippenham.

“In this instance there was no injury, but the company chose to ignore the previous warnings and continued to carry out work in an unsafe manner.”