An organic farm owned by the wife of the multi-millionaire industrialist Sir Anthony Bamford was ordered to pay more than £90,000 yesterday after one of its employees died because of a relaxed attitude to safety.
Daylesford Organic farm shop has become a favourite haunt of health-conscious celebrities and nicknamed "the Harvey Nicks of Cotswolds".
Gardener Tony Cripps, 57, was crushed under a JCB while he tried to collect elderflower from the farm to make lemonade for the owner Carole Bamford. Gloucester Crown Court heard that Mr Cripps, a much-loved former publican and founder of a local rugby club, had been working part time at the farm for just two months when he was killed in June 2007.
Along with another employee, he was riding in the bucket of the digger when it hit a bump or a rut and he was thrown out and under the front wheel. "Sadly, a relaxed safety culture at this particular farm had meant that the practice of using telehandler buckets as work platforms had become acceptable practice despite the obvious risks. Consequently, the use of the bucket for collecting elderflower was not exceptional, but for Anthony Cripps it proved fatal," Health and Safety Executive Inspector Caroline Bird said after the case.
Sir Anthony and Lady Bamford were not in court yesterday as the Judge, William Hart, fined Daylesford Organic Farms Limited £65,000 with £27,500 costs after it pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Speaking on behalf of Mr Cripps' family, who have launched a civil action, solicitor Stuart Henderson said: "Daylesford has built a high-class reputation for providing fine quality produce at premium prices. However, behind the scenes, it would appear that the same ethos did not extend to its own workers and health and safety measures and proper training would appear to have been anything but first-rate."
Adrian Darbishire, defending, said the company "set out to achieve the very highest standards in everything that it did" – but some aspects of health and safety management had not reached that standard.
He revealed that, despite its fame and status, the farm which, despite employing around only 20 people, had a turnover of £700,000 in 2006 but was a "heavily loss-making business".
Mr Darbishire added: "The Bamford family have invested very substantial assets – numbering millions of pounds – to try to establish this as a lasting project."