A Cwmbran farmer died after being hit by the bucket of a JCB being operated by his son while carrying out work on his land.

Gareth Thomas Griffiths was installing drainage systems in the fields at Pant Yr Yrfa Farm in Henllys with his two sons, Christopher and Matthew, on April 20 last year.

The pipes had been installed, and the trio were replacing the soil into the trenches using a JCB 814 excavator.

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Matthew Griffiths told the court he and his father were stood either side of the excavator, which was being operated by his brother Christopher, outside the radius of its swinging arm.

“My father was giving directions to my brother,” he said. “My father, I believe to get a better view –  but without warning or indication, stepped forward in to the swinging circle of the excavator.”

“At some point my father moved into the swinging circle,” said Christopher Griffiths – who is an agricultural contractor.

He told Newport Coroner's Court he had experience of using machinery such as this since he was 15, and both he and his father were certified.

Mr Griffiths was struck on the head by the bucket of the excavator.

“From what I could see, when my father stepped forward he would’ve been obstructed from my brother’s view by the excavator,” said Matthew Griffiths.

Rob Salmon, from the Health and Safety Executive, said that it was expected that “reasonable steps” were taken to prevent injuries while undertaking the work, including “some sort of barrier to prevent people approaching the machine.”

Senior coroner for Gwent Caroline Saunders asked if – in this instance – this needed to be a physical barrier, or was a verbal risk assessment and agreeing to stand outside the radius of the swinging arm sufficient.

“That was perfectly sufficient,” said Mr Salmon. “They said they talked about the work beforehand.”

Mr Salmon said there were no mirrors attached to the excavator – but added that by Mr Griffiths limiting the number of people doing the work, “then the need for mirrors would’ve been circumvented.”

Mr Griffiths was rushed to University Hospital Wales in Cardiff, and died from his injuries a day later, aged 62.

The medical cause of death was recorded as 1A: C3 spinal cord transection; 1B: Hypoxic brain injury.

The jury returned a narrative conclusion, deeming that unsafe work practices contributed to Mr Griffiths’ death.

“[Mr Griffiths] was struck on the head by the excavator bucket which caused catastrophic brain damage and spinal fractures,” they said.

“Despite the immediate care of his sons and the emergency services and hospital staff, Gareth’s injuries were unsurvivable and he died at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff at 11pm on April 21, 2020.

“His death was contributed to by unsafe working practices adopted at the site. This included absence of demarcation tape to denote the radius of the swinging arm of the excavator.”

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