Frank Smith, 54, was fatally injured in May 2005, after the ride-on lawnmower he was using slid down a slope and hit a wall before flipping over on top of him. The court was told the manufacturer advised against the mower's use on slopes steeper than 19 degrees, a figure since reduced to 17 degrees. The section of embankment where Mr Smith's machine slipped was 25.4 degrees. The mower was not fitted with a roll bar, or seatbelt, which do not come as standard.
Consultants hired by the council to conduct a risk assessment had not advised the authority to purchase the roll bar. Recorder Jonathan Hill QC said the risk assessment was inadequate and lacked sufficient detail to give guidance to employees, while managers and supervisors had not attended the training course junior staff were sent on. 'There was a serious and substantial inadequacy in the working systems in place,' the QC added. HSE principal inspector Keith King said the problems from using an unsuitable mower 'were compounded by the fact that the machine did not have roll over protection and a seat belt to protect the driver in the event of it rolling over. That is exactly what happened in this case and all of these factors contributed to the council worker's tragic death.'