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Two contractors fined after worker severely burned by 11kV power line

Two East Anglian businesses have been sentenced after an accident involving a power line left one worker with extensive burns. 

Two contractors fined after worker severely burned by 11kV power line
Image credit: ©iStock/stevenfoley

Norwich Crown Court was told that contract farming company L F Papworth and T W Page & Son, a water supply engineer that serves Norfolk and Suffolk, were working in the Norfolk village of Felmingham, drilling boreholes for crop irrigation. 

T. W. Page employee Jonathan Howes was operating the controls of a lorry-mounted drilling rig on 29 April 2014. His co-worker moved the lorry and this caused the drilling rig’s mast to strike an 11kV overhead power line. 

Howes sustained life-changing injuries, including burns to his scalp, arms, legs and feet. He also lost two toes. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that neither company had taken effective precautions to prevent work equipment, including the mast of the drilling rig, from coming into contact with overhead power lines. 

L F Papworth pleaded guilty to breaching s 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. It was fined £134,000 plus costs of £6,484.

T W Page was fined £80,400 and £6,596 costs after it admitted breaching s 2(1) of the same act.  

HSE inspector Jessica Churchyard said after the hearing: “Where hazardous electrical conductors need to be kept live, workers and equipment must be kept at a safe distance from them. 

“Here, no effective precautions were implemented and workers were put at potentially lethal risk with Mr Howes suffering injuries which will affect him for the rest of his life.”

Keeley Downey is assistant editor of IOSH Magazine

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