A FARMING partnership in the Borders has been fined £100,000 after admitting health and safety breaches when an estate worker was trapped by fire and suffered fatal burns.

Fifty-three-year-old Martin Smith was part of a six-man team carrying out heather burning in the Lammermuir Hills at Cranshaws Farm in Berwickshire, on March 22, 2021, when he became surrounded by the fire.

Selkirk Sheriff Court was told that the flames had jumped a firebreak during the operation and Mr Smith had moved his position in an attempt to stop the fire spreading and had been beating the flames with a wooden pole and rubber flap.

His clothing had caught fire and when a tractor driver came across the former soldier he was in distress, bereft of most of his clothing and was on his hands and knees.

The tractor driver dialled 999 - a conversation described by fiscal Jemma Eadie of the Health and Safety at Work Unit at the Crown office as "harrowing" - and an air ambulance was summoned to take him to Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

But Ms Eadie said Mr Smith suffered extensive injuries to his lower limbs and torso which she described as "un-survivable" and he died in hospital at 2am the following day.

She added a subsequent post mortem showed Mr Smith had suffered severe burns on 75 per cent of his body.

The court heard Mr Smith lived in a cottage on the estate of Harehead Farms - who operate four Berwickshire farms including Cranshaws - and worked as a self-employed mole catcher.

He had agreed to take part in the heather burning on the day of the tragedy for £10 an hour.

Harehead Farms pleaded guilty to failures under the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to carry out a risk assessment for the muirburn, an agricultural term for moorland, and also failing to have a safe system in place, in particular first aid, fire extinguishers or water supply in the event that a person suffered injury.

They also failed to provide instruction and supervision or ensure that there was adequate protective equipment, in particular fire resistant clothing and footwear.

Delivering his sentence, Sheriff Peter Paterson stated: "Clearly there is a significant breach of health and safety here."

He fined Harehead Farms £100,000 giving them six months to pay with a £7,500 Victim Surcharge also added.