Roll bar could have prevented Sandringham lake accident

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A lawn mower “toppled” into a lake on the Sandringham estate and trapped the gardener after losing control on a slope, a Health and Safety Executive report has concluded.

Royal estate worker Lee Able was caught beneath the ride-on mower for some minutes before being rescued by PCs Keith Hunt and Darren Wynne with the help of the estate’s head gardener, Martin Woods, in July last year.

But a report into the accident, which has been released under a Freedom of Information request, highlighted that the Toro Groundmaster mower’s roll bar was in a lowered position during the accident.

While inspectors found the estate had not committed any health and safety breaches, they highlighted a number of out of date risk assessments.

A spokesman for the estate said: “Sandringham Estate is aware of the HSE report. Any actions relating to their recommendations and observations will be assessed directly with that body.”

Mr Able, who is in his 30s, had been mowing a slope leading to the lake when the accident happened on July 8.

The report states that the mower’s back wheels lost traction as the weight transferred onto the front wheels as it went down the slope.

It added: “The mower slid down the bank, rotating as it did so, such that the rear offside wheel went over the edge of the bank, causing the mower deck to ground momentarily before the nearside wheel also went over the edge of the bank.

“The mower then toppled backwards into the water, twisting towards its offside before ending upside down.

“The roll bar was in the lowered position. He was trapped underneath the upturned mower.

“It is not clear why the roll bar was not erected.

“If it had been in use, he may have been able to release himself from the seat and escaped.”

The inspection team put forward seven recommendations, which included regular training such as “toolbox talks” and improving ways to keep in contact with lone workers.

The estate has also been told that risk assessments should be in a consistent format and when roll bars should be used.

Mr Able, who had been wearing a seat belt was trapped under water for 10 minutes before being pulled to safety by the officers and Mr Woods, who have all be awarded lifesaving honours from the Royal Humane Society.

He was airlifted to hospital following the incident.

The Queen had been attending a meeting with the Welsh Corgi Club in a nearby garden prior to the accident.