A CONSTRUCTION company has been fined £50,000 after a teenager on work experience was seriously injured in a tractor accident.

Earlcoate Construction & Plant Hire Limited had “failed to adequately protect” 16-year-old Tom Cutler from harm, an investigation has revealed.

Tom was learning about vehicle repair work at Earlcoate Construction & Plant Hire, at Folds Farm in the New Forest ahead of his starting a vehicle maintenance course at Sparsholt College.

Tom was on his own and driving a tractor down an incline on August 3, 2021. The tractor did not have a seat belt, and when it overturned, he was thrown from his seat.

Tom’s upper leg was trapped under the tractor roof. Passers-by found him in time to call for assistance. 

Tom’s dad, David Cutler, said: “Tom was only 16 when this incident happened, and it’s changed his life forever. Had it not been for his own bravery and the amazing work of the emergency services we could have lost him.

“Tom acted quickly and used his belt as a tourniquet to stem the bleeding punched out the cab window to check his leg and managed to break off a wing mirror to enable him to turn off the tractor and prevent a fire from fuel that was escaping.”

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Tom spent a month in hospital and has since undergone seven different operations but can’t do the things he used to do. He was a keen mountain biker and cricket player but is now unable to continue with this. 

His father added: “He doesn’t sleep properly and is more anxious; he had to put his education on hold for a year and we as a whole family have found it extremely tough.”

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Earlcoate Construction & Plant Hire Limited had failed to adequately protect Tom through a failure of supervision, and did not provide adequate information, instruction, or training to him.

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At Southampton Magistrates’ Court on 16 October, Earlcoate Construction & Plant Hire Limited of Folds Farm, Fordingbridge, New Forest pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 2(1) of the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974.  The company was ordered to pay a fine of £50,000 and costs of £9,223.

Advisor to the managing director at Earlcoate Construction and Plant Hire, Mark Cross, said: "The company deeply regrets that Tom was injured at work. We are really sorry. We hope Tom makes a full recovery. We will pay the fine."

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Nicola Pinckney said: “Tom is lucky the outcome was not worse. This was due to his quick thinking, the fact he was found in time by passers-by and the outstanding work carried out by the emergency services and those in the hospital providing his care.

“The incident could so easily have been avoided by understanding the risks involved with employing young people. This could have been achieved by carrying out a suitable risk assessment and putting in place appropriate information, instruction, and training for both Tom and those working with him, and most importantly, ensuring adequate supervision was in place to ensure correct control measures and safe working practices were implemented."