Redwings Horse Sanctuary in Norfolk has been fined £6,000 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an incident in which a stack of hay toppled onto an employee, breaking her pelvis in several places.

Another employee had cut the strings and taken some hay from a bale at the bottom of the haystack, causing the rest to collapse when Elise Honey was working nearby. Redwings was fined £6,000 by magistrates, and ordered to pay full costs of £8,516.90.

“Redwings failure to adequately train and supervise their staff in correct bale stacking procedures, coupled with their failure to adequately assess the risks associated with handling such large bales led to an incident that was entirely preventable,” explained an HSE inspector.

Bale-stacking is an age-old art, which has always relied heavily on practical and common sense. The HSE nevertheless, have produced guidelines on handling and stacking bales in agriculture, on the basis of which Redwings were found to be in breach of good practice.

Chief Executive of Redwings Horse Sanctuary, John Archibald, was being practical about the issue, which has an element of the unreal about it.

“There have been comments about it along the lines of the stack-of-baked-beans-in-a-supermarket syndrome. If you take a tin from the bottom, it’s obvious that the whole lot will fall over,” he commented.

“We didn’t have a procedure in place that said ‘thou shalt not cut the string of a bottom bale’, we had simply relied on common sense. But now we have actually put such a procedure in place!”

He said he was being realistic about the implications for other equestrian set-ups, however. “Everyone that keeps horses must have to stack hay, and they should all realise that should anything happen, they could well be liable if they have not acted according to the good practice guide issued by the HSE, even though the advice is optional.

  • The HSE’s good practice guide Handling and Stacking Bales in Agriculture is available online at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg125.pdf