Family-owned game farm in Yorkshire fined over fire in pheasant-rearing shed that left worker in a coma with severe burns

A game bird-rearing farm near Leeds has been fined over £26,000 after a worker suffered severe burns following a fire in a pheasant shed.

The incident happened at the Yorkshire Game Farm in Woodlesford in May 2020, and the employee spent five days in an induced coma at Pinderfields Hospital.

Leeds Magistrates Court heard that the worker had been installing gas heaters in the shed, ready for a new crop of birds. Upon turning on the gas supply and lighting the heaters, the shed burst into flames, causing him significant burns and totally destroying the shed.

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An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that when the employee came to commission the heaters, it was highly likely that a leak of gas ignited, setting fire to the shed and the bedding put down for the birds.

Fire crews at Yorkshire Game FarmFire crews at Yorkshire Game Farm
Fire crews at Yorkshire Game Farm

The reason for the gas leak was not identified as all the gas piping within the building was destroyed, but gas equipment outside the building was cracked and perished, indicating that it had not been maintained.

Yorkshire Game Farm of Woodlesford, Leeds, West Yorkshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company has been fined £26,680.00 and ordered to pay £6495.20 in costs.

HSE inspector Howard Whittaker said: “This fire was most likely caused by gas leaking from poorly maintained equipment, and could have led to this young man’s death. He was very lucky to escape with his life, but he will suffer increased sensitivity to sunlight for the rest of his life.

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“The gas pipelines and equipment we found outside the shed was perished and cracked, indicating that it had not been maintained in a safe condition leading to the leak of gas causing an initial flash, followed by a fire inside the shed.

The shed was gutted by the fireThe shed was gutted by the fire
The shed was gutted by the fire

“In addition, a gas tightness test should have been carried out once the equipment had been installed and before the gas equipment was used, to identify if there were any leaks.

”In sentencing Yorkshire Game Farm, the district judge remarked this was an accident waiting to happen.

“Had the equipment been properly maintained and operated, in line with industry standards and good practice, this dreadful accident would not have happened."

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Yorkshire Game Farm’s directors are brothers Andrew and John Garnett. In 2011 their mother Judith, 52, who had run the business for a number of years, was shot dead at her home by their gamekeeper and lodger Aaron Wilkinson, then 24, an Army veteran. Wilkinson was charged with murder, but found guilty of manslaughter at trial.