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LARGE FINE IN OVERHEAD CABLE STRIKE PROSECUTION

Farming firm fined after workman electrocuted in conductor strike

Velcourt Ltd has been fined £120,000 after a 21 year old workman died whilst harvesting crops on 6 August 2007. The combine harvester involved had a problem with the grain discharge spout which was therefore left extended during cropping. The field contained an 11,000 volt overhead power lines.

During cropping the harvester picked up stones and soil. The workman stopped the machine in order to clear the blockage but did not realise the grain spout was touching power lines. He received a fatal electric shock of 6,300 volts.

HSE investigation found that Velcourt Ltd failed to adequately inspect, monitor, supervise or audit health and safety management at the farm. The farm manager had not received adequate health and safety training and no risk assessments had been carried out regarding overhead power lines.

Basic failure in safety management system

Velcourt Limited, of The Veldt House, Much Marcle, Ledbury, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £45,000.

HSE inspector, Liam Osborne, said:

“HSE traced the root causes of this terrible incident to basic failures in Velcourt’s safety management system. At no stage during the selection of their combines did Velcourt ask what the risk would be of touching overhead lines.

Velcourt’s farm contract manager was given inadequate safety training, particularly in identifying hazards, and what measures to take to reduce them. There was little to no review or monitoring of how well Velcourt were managing the substantial risks farmers face in the high-pressure work of harvesting.

Had these basic, commonsense and entirely reasonable low-cost measures been put in place, Edward would still be here. We implore those who put their workers into hazardous jobs to think about the risks involved, then plan and control the work properly.”

Comment

This case is relevant to the construction sector. Overhead conductors are a common hazard on projects and require detailed consideration of the kind missing in this instance

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