Farm manager jailed over workers’ deaths

A practice known as “scuba diving” led to the deaths of two agricultural workers in a nitrogen-filled apple store.

Winchester Crown Court heard that the two men were following a system of work devised by their manager, Andrew Stocker, and entered the store to retrieve produce for the Marden Fruit Show. This involved them accessing the store via a small hatch and holding their breath whilst selecting the choicest fruits.

The normal concentration of oxygen in air is around 21% and once it drops below 19.5% this is considered oxygen-deficient. Measurement in the apple store where the men suffocated showed only 1%.

Mr Stocker, who was away in the Maldives when the incident took place, admitted that his work practices exposed employees to a risk of death and was sentenced to 30 months in jail. Blackmoor Estate Limited was fined £75,000 with costs on top.

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