A farm worker suffered horrific leg and ankle injuries when she slipped and became trapped in unguarded machinery at a grain drying building.
Wanda Lustig (34) sustained a six-inch by four-inch gash to her lower left calf and will be scarred for life following the conveyor system accident at Townhead Farm, Greenloaning, on October 18, 2011.
Another employee, who saw the wound, likened it to a “shark bite” and the consultant surgeon who carried out an emergency operation on the Polish national said the injuries had occurred due to a “horrendous industrial accident”.
Somehow the woman managed to free her foot and, despite the excruciating pain, crawled from the building near Braco to raise the alarm.
Blackford Farms Ltd, owned by the billionaire Al Tajir family, from the United Arab Emirates, were fined £35,000 at Perth Sheriff Court after they admitted a catalogue of failings under the Health and Safety at Work Act. The family, who also own Highland Spring, purchased the farm as well as other land and properties extending to around 20,000 acres, almost 20 years ago.
The failures, listed in a three-page indictment, took place between October 18, 2009, and October 18, 2011. One of the charges indicated that the accident victim, who still lives in Braco, suffered “severe injury, permanent disfigurement and permanent impairment”.
The court was told that Miss Lustig, who had worked as a general farm worker there for six years, was rushed by ambulance to Falkirk Royal Infirmary.
Senior depute fiscal David Glancy said she needed plastic surgery and skin grafts were taken from the top of her thigh, as well as muscle from her back, to “reform the tissue” lost at the site of the injury.
The scarring covers a quarter of her lower leg and she needed a stick to help her to walk. Further surgery will be required to restore the shape of her ankle, as well as repair muscle damage to her leg.
Ms Lustig was subsequently paid off by Blackford Farms Ltd and in early January of this year moved out of the tied cottage she lived in on the estate.
Solicitor Diane Turner, for Blackford Estates, said that the company had admitted liability for the accident and an interim payment had been paid to the victim.
Further medical reports were awaited before the amount of final compensation could be quantified. After the accident, a review of their operations had resulted in a “complete change in working practices”.
She added: “Health and safety has been completely reviewed and risk assessments are now in place for all the activities.’’
Miss Lustig had been made redundant in October of last year, along with a number of other employees, as part of the reorganisation and not as a consequence of her injuries.
The building where the accident had taken place had since been demolished and the company had “co-operated fully” with the Health and Safety Executive.
Imposing the fine on the company who made around £119,000 profit in 2011, Sheriff Lindsay Foulis said there had been a “serious breach” of regulations and the circumstances in the grain shed had been “inherently dangerous”.
HSE inspector Harry Bottesch said yesterday: “Agriculture remains one of the most dangerous industry sectors to work in. The serious and distressing injury suffered by Miss Lustig is the result of yet another entirely avoidable agricultural incident.’’