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Farm partners fined after young father killed in 'tragic incident'

The partners of a Suffolk-based farm have been sentenced after a haulage contractor was killed by an overhead power line strike.


Ryan   Wood

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Farm partners fined after young father killed in 'tragic incident' #FarmSafety

Basildon Magistrates’ Court heard how on August 30, 2016, Mr Christopher Wilson, a haulage driver, was killed when his tipping trailer was raised and made contact with overhead power lines that ran across part of the yard hard standing at the Airfield Grain store, Parham near Framlingham, Suffolk.

 

The site was managed by Nicholas and Roger Watts, partners of F S Watts & Sons. Mr Wilson was electrocuted and died at the scene.

 

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that F S Watts and Sons had failed to take suitable precautions for work near to the overhead electric power lines despite the recommendations given to them previously by NFU Mutual Risk Management Services.


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Mr Nicholas Watts and Mr Roger Watts each pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 3(1)(a) contrary to regulation 14, of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and each was fined 9,500 and ordered to pay costs of £4,700.

 

After the hearing, HSE inspector Saffron Turnell said: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a young father.

 

"This death could easily have been prevented if those in control of operations at the grain store had acted to identify and manage the risks involved and put a safe system of work in place.”

Last year, farmers challenged the HSE to deal with low-hanging power lines which put their lives in danger.


Legally, power lines must be a minimum of 5.2m above ground level, rising to 7.3m for higher voltage cables.

 

But the requirements were set when agricultural machinery was much smaller, and it is not unusual for combine harvesters, telescopic handlers, tractors and crop sprayers to be capable of reaching the lines.

 

There are about 1,000 power line strikes every year, and an 18-year-old Lincolnshire farmer, Jackson Maplethorpe, was tragically killed when his trailer hit an overhead cable in November 2016.

 

David Exwood, the union’s West Sussex chair, said: “I am hugely frustrated by the danger of overhead power lines. I must have a dozen on my farm which are well under the minimum legal requirement.

 

“There is not a need for new legislation, [energy supply companies] just do not comply. You report them and they do not take any interest.

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