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Suffolk company prosecuted after workers' lives put at risk

A company has been fined after a visit by Health and Safety Executive inspectors found dangerous conditions in a factory.

Suffolk Mushrooms Limited was also housing 37 employees in a disused office block with a potentially unsafe gas boiler on the Shepherd Grove Industrial Estate, East Stanton in Suffolk.

Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court heard today that in September 2010, St Edmundsbury Borough Council informed HSE, who then investigated and prosecuted the company.

The HSE investigation found that the heating in the living accommodation was provided by a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) fired boiler in the men’s toilet. There was no landlord’s gas safety certificate for this boiler, which is a legal requirement.

In the factory used as the mushroom farm, HSE inspectors found a number of safety failings.

The gates on the work platforms used by employees to reach the highest mushroom beds were propped open and an HGV regularly reversed 100m between the two growing sheds where people might be walking.

Inspectors also found that forklift trucks were being operated by drivers who were not properly trained and equipment was being towed around unsafely with pieces of knotted rope.

Suffolk Mushrooms Ltd of Shepherds Grove Industrial Estate, Stanton, Bury St Edmunds, admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £10,000 and £750 for not having a landlord Gas Safety report for the boiler, and ordered to pay £8,446.05 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector John Claxton said: “What we discovered at this farm was very disturbing. It is difficult to believe that workers can be exposed to such unnecessary risks.

“Suffolk Mushrooms invested more than £1.5m in refurbishing its factory and mushroom growing equipment, yet failed to spend even a few hundred pounds to keep its employees safe.

“The workers were from Eastern Europe and most were unable to speak good English, and so were vulnerable to this type of exploitation.

“There is absolutely no excuse to treat employees like this. There is plenty of free advice and guidance available from HSE to help businesses comply with the law and keep people safe.

“HSE will not hesitate to take action against companies failing to comply with the law.”