A well respected Devon farmer died working in a silo of grain which would have been ‘like quicksand’, an inquest has heard.
Reginald George Nicholls, 66, died at Berry Farm, on the main Torquay to Totnes road on November 28.
He ran the 40-acre site on the farm owned by the Duke of Somerset which was used as the showground for the Totnes Show.
The Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon Coroner Ian Arrow heard at the inquest that some corn in one of the silos at the farm collapsed beneath him as he was trying to empty it.
He died of asphyxia secondary to immersion in free flowing grain.
A health and safety inspector told the jury who heard the inquest as it was an accident at work, that such incidents are happening several times on farms each year.
Farm worker Mark Nicholls, who is related to Reg Nicholls, told the inquest they had had a problem for the past couple of years with weevils in the feed corn, condensation and germination.
This had caused solid layer to build up at the top of the silo which Mr Nicholls decided needed to be cleared to enable the silo to be emptied.
Simon Jones, an inspector for the Health and Safety Executive which carried out a workplace accident investigation told the jury that silos with free flowing grains should not normally be entered.
“Once you start to sink attempts to get out are likely to make you sink further, it’s very much like quicksand,” he said.
"The main risk is oxygen deprivation. Anyone who went into a silo was lucky to get out.
"Regrettably we have a number of fatalities each year where farmers or staff have become trapped in grain silos. I believe going into silos is a regular occurrence on a farm."
The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.
Our guide explores the root causes of on-farm health and safety problems and offers advice on how to create an environment which keeps you and your family safe.