Suffolk Mushrooms Limited was also housing 37 employees in a disused office block with a potentially unsafe gas boiler.
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. This boiler had not been serviced or maintained and there was no landlord’s gas safety certificate, 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 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.”