Equestrian business fined after death of employee

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An equestrian business in South Northamptonshire has been ordered to pay a total of £47,120 following the death of an employee.

On Thursday, 11 September 2014, 37-year-old Kate Mathews was helping to load cross-country horse jumps onto a flatbed trailer at Foxhills Farm in Eydon.

One of the pieces of equipment, a one tonne log, rolled from the loading machine being operated by Lesley Smith, director of Foxhill Equestrian Ltd, killing Miss Mathews. 

At Northampton Crown Court on Monday, 3 July 2017 the company was fined and ordered to pay costs after pleading guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 following a prosecution brought by South Northamptonshire Council (SNC).

Her Honour Judge Lucking QC ordered the company to pay a £7,500 fine, £39,500 costs and a £120 victim surcharge. She said the company had no previous convictions, admitted guilt at the earliest available opportunity, and gave credit for Smith’s cooperation during the investigation.

She said Ms Mathews and Smith had a very close relationship and said: “This is a particularly sad case; I make it clear that under no circumstances can the fine I am bound to impose upon this business, Foxhills Equestrian Ltd, reflect the value of a life that was lost.”

Cllr Dermot Bambridge, SNC’s portfolio holder for environmental services said: “This is a tragic case but it was avoidable, and I implore rural businesses to look as this case and then look at their own working practices.

“Dangers are plentiful in all work places, particularly in rural businesses.  Employers are required by law to ensure the safety and welfare of their employees and visitors to their premises.

“It is essential that proper risk assessments are undertaken, staff are properly trained and safe systems of work are in place."

The company pleaded guilty to a single offence which incorporated a number of failings in that it did not carry out a suitable or sufficient risk assessment, had not used suitable equipment to carry out the task, and did not have a safe system of work in place.