The billionaire owners of a Perthshire farm have been fined £35,000 after admitting gross safety failings that left a worker permanently disfigured.
Wanda Lustig suffered a horrific injury, described as “resembling a shark bite”, after her leg became trapped in machinery at Townhead Farm, Greenloaning, in 2011.
Caught in a conveyer belt, she called for help but went unheard by colleagues, and the machinery tore skin from bone before she was able to free herself.
At the time of the accident, the farm’s operation was entrusted to Maher Al Tajir, eldest son of Dubai’s London-based billionaire Mahdi Al Tajir, who owns Blackford Estates and Highland Spring.
On Thursday, their firm Blackford Farms Ltd pled guilty to a string of health and safety breaches said to have taken place between October 18 2009 and October 18 2011.
Perth Sheriff Court was told Ms Lustig and her colleagues had raised concerns about the safety of operations at the farm, but had apparently been ignored.
Health and safety practices at the farm had also been neglected and risk assessments had not been carried out, despite the farm paying £1,000 a month to a specialist firm.
Those oversights led to what medical staff described as “a horrendous industrial accident” on October 18 2011, as Miss Lustig a Polish national and employee of six years worked in a grain-drying building.
She had gone to investigate a “strange sound” and discovered a blockage in a conveyor belt, only to slip and catch her left foot in the moving chainwork.
Depute fiscal David Glancy told the court: “Miss Lustig was taken by ambulance to Falkirk Royal Infirmary where records indicate her pain score as 10/10.”
Miss Lustig required plastic surgery in a specialist unit, with skin grafts taken to reform tissue lost at the site of the injury.
Further surgery has since taken place to restore the shape of her ankle and repair muscle damage.
The court was told scarring would be permanent and that it “covered a quarter of her lower leg”.
Mr Glancy said Miss Lustig had constant pain when walking and struggled with the emotional aftermath of her trauma.
He said she had been unable to find further employment, having been made redundant by the firm following restructuring.
Solicitor for the accused Diane Turner said there had been a major overhaul of management, systems and working practices at the farm after the accident.
“Health and safety has been completely reviewed and policies and practices re-written and risk assessments are now in place for all work activity,” she said.
She stressed, however, there had been “no deliberate failure” to comply with health and safety and stressed the firm previously had a good record.
Fining Blackford Farms Ltd, Sheriff Lindsay Foulis said the business and its owners had been guilty of “a serious breach of the regulations” governing health and safety.
He said the operations had been “inherently dangerous” and it was clear to him how “serious injury could occur”.
“Sadly for Miss Lustig that turned out to be the case,” he said.
The Courier visited Miss Lustig at her home in Braco but she declined to comment on the court case.
Blackford Farms is based near Dunblane and much of the 20,000-acre estate is now given over to cattle.