It was the second time an employee of Turriff-based Transpan Scotland Ltd had died in similar circumstances in the last nine years.
The company admitted a breach of the Health and Safety Act in February 2011 at its Toremill Harbro depot in Inverness, which led to the death of Andrew Harrold, of Ardross, Easter Ross.
The previous fatality involved 56-year-old Fortrose man Kenny Bissett in 2006, three weeks after he joined the firm. There was no prosecution and a fatal accident inquiry was held instead.
After the details of the second death were heard, Mr Harrold’s sister Elizabeth Fountain, 35, from Alness, criticised the prosecution. She said: “It has taken far too long but it won’t bring him back.”
The family firm with 54 employees admitted failing to take suitable and sufficient measures to ensure that workers followed safety systems when unloading grain from vehicles.
As a consequence, Inverness Sheriff Court heard, Mr Harrold overrode a safety device fitted to his lorry which enabled him to be in an unsafe position at the rear of his vehicle. He was buried under grain being emptied from the vehicle, sustained severe injuries and died.
Sheriff Margaret Neilson said: “Any financial penalty imposed is not meant in any way to measure the value of anyone’s life.
“A death has occurred as a result of lack of adequate supervisions of the systems which had been put in place and that makes this a very serious matter.
“It is appropriate the punitive effect of the fine is borne by the shareholders and not the company’s creditors or employees.”
The company was given six months to pay the fine.
Sheriff Neilson added: “In the company’s favour, it is clear it has taken genuine steps to remedy the defect in the supervision procedures, has accepted responsibility promptly and is now displaying a responsible attitude to health and safety.”
The court was told that an unauthorised bungee cord had been fitted to Mr Harrold’s articulated vehicle sometime between February 2009 and February 2011 which enabled the drivers to ensure the lever in the cab to raise the tipper could be held on.
Although there were no witnesses, Mr Harrold had gone to the danger zone at the rear of the vehicle while it was rising and the doors flew open with the weight of its 28,000kg load.
Within seconds, Mr Harrald was knocked back off his feet and swamped by the animal feed. Workmates dug Mr Harrold out but he was found to have died from chest and abdominal trauma and asphyxiation.