It is sad that the only time the national media rush to cover the continuing carnage in agriculture is when two young workers are killed on a peer’s country estate. Not that you can expect anything more than crocodile tears from the said Lord.
Scott Cain, 23, and Ashley Clarke, 24, were discovered unconscious on Monday 18 February in an apple store on the Hampshire Blackmoor Estate owned by the Earl of Selborne, John Palmer.
The pair were collecting apples when fumes in a building that is kept cool by a system that uses nitrogen to regulate temperature, oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity overcame them.
Under the Control of Substances Hazards to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) then if hazardous substances are present in a workplace then the employer should assess the risks and put in place control measures to prevent exposure and where this is not possible put in place control measures to minimise the risk.
Nitrogen is odourless, colourless, and tasteless and may produce asphyxia without any sensation or prior warning. Oxygen sensors are sometimes employed as a safety measure to alert workers of gas spills in a confined space. It is not known if they were installed or in operation at Blackmoor Estate.
Blackmoor Estate was established in 1920s and has a long-standing reputation for its apples, pears and plums that are also used to produce ciders and juices. At 2,500 acres it is one of the largest estates in Hampshire, a county in which just 307 landowners own 36% of the land with the other 1.6 million people the rest.
The Earl of Selborne, who also owns property in Southampton and Portsmouth, first entered the Lords in 1971. His son, William Wolmar, the Managing Director of the Blackmoor estate, said in a statement: ‘This is absolutely devastating….the cause is being investigated.’
The HSE are assisting Hampshire police and the investigation remains ongoing. No date for the inquest by the North Hampshire Coroner has been set.
Scott Cain and Ashley Clarke were amongst five killed in the agricultural industry in February this year, with Kevin Alderton, 34, John Sloan, 50 and George Briggs, 83, also having their lives ended early.
The deaths took the numbers killed in agriculture at the end of February 2013 to 34 in the eleventh months in 2012-13. This is close to 19% of the overall total of 182 and yet the industry employs just 1.4% of the UK’s total workforce. Perhaps we need tighter laws? Forget that, the Earl of Selborne’s Tory party has just ended unannounced preventive inspections in the sector. The killings will undoubtedly continue and may likely even rise. Not much of a tribute to two young men is it?