To many people, they are the epitome of peace and tranquillity. But, as a recent inquest into the death of a women who was killed as a result of a hay bale striking her has highlighted, farms and equitation centres can also be extremely dangerous places; especially where health and safety rules are ignored. I have previously blogged on the topic of dangers on farms, but this particular case has highlighted another place of potential danger; riding stables.

We recently represented the family of a lady who died after a stack of hay bales collapsed, causing a one ton hay bale to fatally strike her. The circumstances surrounding Charlotte Conroy-Taylor’s death were tragic; Mrs Conroy-Taylor was visiting the Beaumont Grange Stables in Lancaster with her daughter after recently returning from a family holiday. As her daughter went out to ride her horse Flash, who had been stabled at the centre for a number of years, Mrs Conroy-Taylor stayed in the stable to muck out and lay fresh hay. It was Mrs Conroy-Taylor’s 13 year old daughter who found her mother’s body unconscious and unresponsive following the fatal injury.

The inquest into her death concluded that the bales of hay were not stacked safely and as a result, they collapsed, causing Mrs Conroy-Taylor’s death. Worryingly, it also became apparent during the inquest that there was a profound knowledge gap on the part of the stable owners when it comes to the safe stacking of hay bales; and even a lack of awareness that advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is available on the topic.

Sadly, Mrs Conroy-Taylor’s death is not an isolated case; we have acted for and continue to represent several clients who have suffered needless injuries, some of which have been fatal, as a result of health and safety failures in rural settings.

Health and safety regulations and guidance are in place for a reason; to try and protect innocent users of facilities like stables and equitation centres, such as Mrs Conroy-Taylor. It is only hoped that following the verdict at her inquest, Mrs Conroy-Taylor’s tragic death will raise an awareness of the safe practices in stacking hay bales; perhaps preventing such accidents from occurring in the future.

By Jonathan Bridge, Fatal Accident Solicitor