THE owners of a farm near Chester have been fined £85,000 after a scrap metal collector was fatally electrocuted on the site.
Edward Evans, 52, had been picking up old metal cages at Holme Farm in Ince when he inadvertently raised the crane on his lorry into on overhead power cable.
Liverpool Crown Court heard he and a friend, Thomas Harker, had been collecting scrap from the farm by prior arrangement when the incident took place on January 17, 2015.
JH Willis & Sons pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws and were ordered to pay a fine as well as costs of £11,823.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the metal had been left under live 11kz overhead power lines (OHPLs).
Mr Evans and his friend had driven the loader crane over to the scrap, parked under the lines and exited the vehicle.
Whilst operating the crane to pick up and move the scrap metal into the back of the loader crane, the grabber touched the lines and became tangled in them.
Mr Evans, who was a member of the travelling community in Elton, was electrocuted and died. Mr Harker also received an electric shock whilst trying to pull his friend away, with one expert saying he was lucky not to have been killed.
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Jane Carroll said: “This tragic incident could easily have been prevented if the farm partnership had acted to identify and manage the risks involved with overhead power lines on their land, and to put a safe system of work in place.
“The dangers associated with OHPL are well known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from HSE and other energy suppliers. Duty holders must make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from overhead power lines.”
An inquest into Mr Evans' death in January this year concluded he had died of misadventure.
The incident caused a power outage at exactly 12.53pm which affected the whole of Ince village.
The inquest heard that a host of health and safety and security improvements had been made at the farm since the tragedy, including a fixed barrier to stop anyone parking beneath the overhead cables.
It also emerged that on the day of the incident, the sun had been low and bright, which may have obscured Mr Evans' and Mr Harker's view of a warning sign and the power cables.
Furthermore, neither could read so would not have been able to understand the wording on the sign – although it also depicted an image of a lightning bolt.
Giving evidence, HSE inspector Jane Carroll said land owners should seek advice if they have any doubts about site safety.
Statistics show there are around 35 deaths a year on agricultural sites, of which around three per cent are down to 'power line strikes'. This has equated to between one and two a year for the past 10 to 15 years.
Ms Carroll told Warrington Coroner's Court: “This [power lines strikes] is a very well known hazard and it has been for a very long time.”
She urged farmers and land owners to check guidance on the HSE website, contact the organisation directly or get in touch with with the National Farmers Union (NFU),which also offered advice.
Cheshire coroner Nicholas Rheinberg said that in the past 25 years he had seen around six inquests involving deaths caused by electricity cables – around one every four years.
Mr Evans, known as 'Pudgie' to his friends and family, was described as a “larger than life character” and “very respected in the community”.