We often see a reliance with PPE as a reliable safety control. PPE is designed to be the last line of defence and with so many potential failings should we have such a reliance on it. The case study below demonstrates how hazardous this reliance can be.

A farming business in Norfolk has been fined £50,000 after the son of its sole director drowned inside a grain storage silo.

Arthur Mason, 21, drowned in an 8m high, three-quarters full grain silo at Hall Farm, run by the family-owned company Maurice Mason.

Norwich Crown Court heard that on 9 July 2014, Mason had been inside the silo, using the grain as a working platform while cleaning it from the inside with a broom.

A HSE investigating inspector stated that Mason’s colleague was positioned on top of the silo, monitoring and controlling the flow of grain out of it as it emptied.

The grain was exiting through a small opening at the bottom of the silo, several feet below the surface.

But the court heard that the movement had created a “quicksand” effect, with the result that Mason began to sink into the grain.

He had been wearing a fall arrest lanyard, anchored to a fixed ladder inside the silo. The forces involved were enough to cause the fall-arrest component of the lanyard to deploy, extending to its full length of roughly four metres.

The HSE inspector explained: ”Had he been wearing something different, such as a shorter, solid lanyard that didn’t extend, things might have been different. The lanyard was designed with an extension section, that reduces the impact forces if someone falls, so it extended to its full length.”

However, the inspector was unable to say whether or not a shorter two metre lanyard would have saved Mason’s life, as it would have depended on the height of the chosen anchor point on the fixed ladder.

He also stressed that the risk assessment that had resulted in the decision to work inside the silo in the first place was “completely inadequate”.


Look at your risk assessments and consider is there a better more reliable risk control, rather than just a provision of PPE!