Working on a farm can be dangerous at times, because employees are often working alone in remote locations. In these circumstances there is not anyone else there to help you if you get into difficulties. This was illustrated in a tragic incident involving a 60 year old farm worker in Northern Ireland. The accident occurred in 2012 and investigations into the incident and the cause of John Joseph Mulvenna’s death have been being conducted since then. Concerns were raised by his family, who felt that there should have been better Health and Safety procedures in place and that more could have potentially been done to prevent the accident from occurring. The enquiry’s results were released today.
Mulvenna’s accident was difficult to examine as there were no witnesses to the incident. Looking at the arrangement of the scene when Mulvenna was found, it has been speculated that the trailer and the quad bike became detached and Mulvenna may have been crushed by the trailer whilst trying to get it back into position. The enquiry has found that there were in fact some supplementary factors to what happened during the accident. The link between the trailer and the quad bike Mulvenna was driving at the time of the incident was not believed to be of appropriate quality. If the link had been more substantial or more appropriate it is thought it would have been less likely to disengage. However, it is unknown whether the trailer and quad would still have come apart regardless of the linkage. This is because skid marks were found at the scene showing the quad to have slipped prior to the accident.
To add to the unknown aspect of the case, the sheep which Mulvenna had been attending to at the time of the incident were gathered around the scene as the trailer had been carrying feed for the animals. This obliterated any evidence on the ground which would have shown what Mulvenna’s movements had been prior to the incident.
Recommendations have not been put in place as to how to prevent an accident of this kind occurring in the future. The family themselves suggested that farm workers should work in pairs but this was thought to difficult to implicate in a profession in which a large amount of solitary work is accepted as an appropriate norm. It was ruled, however, that steps could have been taken to prevent this accident occurring. Therefore, it may be possible for the family to pursue a work accident compensation claim. Hopefully the ruling from the coroner today will help his loved ones to be able to move on from the incident and to heal.
Author: Nicholas Jervis