The tragic death of a farmer who became trapped and crushed in an industrial machine could have been avoided, a judge has ruled.
Sheriff Robert McDonald led an inquiry into the accident at Auchlinn Farm, Turriff, Aberdeenshire, in which Andrew Neil Ironside, of Portlethen, was killed.
The Fatal Accident Inquiry heard that on November 10, 2018, Mr Ironside placed his head and upper body into a chamber of a grain dryer while its moving parts were still in operation.
The 47-year-old’s face and neck became trapped between a rotating agitator bar and the dryer frame causing serious injuries.
The court heard from Ryan McGibbon, a farm worker employed by Mr Ironside, the director of JNI Agricultural Ltd, witnessed the incident.
On the morning of the accident, Mr McGibbon arrived at Auchlinn Farm to help in cleaning the grain dryer and when he arrived Mr Ironside was already at work.
Approaching the machine from the opposite end, Mr McGibbon noticed it was running before hearing his employer shouting.
He went round to the other end of the dryer and saw that Mr Ironside was stuck inside. He could not see the businessman’s head but his body was hanging out of the machine.
An emergency call was placed at around noon and Scottish Ambulance Service personnel arrived shortly after.
A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service firefighter arrived at the scene and saw that Mr Ironside’s head was trapped by a blade inside the dryer. After standing down to wait for a safety inspection, he used an electric saw to cut the farmer’s body free.
Sheriff McDonald found that Mr Ironside was able to place his head inside the dryer by defeating its interlocking mechanism designed to power off the machine when the inspection door was open.
Mr Ironside removed the inspection door, turned it upside down and then refitted the interlocking mechanism allowing the rotating blades to operate while the access panel was open and unguarded.
The Fatal Accident Inquiry found that Mr Ironside’s death could have been avoided if safer working practices had been followed.
Sheriff McDonald said: “None of the witnesses were able to explain why Mr Ironside might have decided to remove and refit the outer guard door of the dryer in the way that he did but the consequences of his doing so proved to be tragic.
“Due to the coronavirus pandemic it was not possible to allow members of the public including members of Mr Ironside’s family, to be physically present at the Inquiry and this was most unfortunate. I would however wish to express my sincere condolences to the family of the late Mr Ironside for their sad loss as a result of this tragic accident.”