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Trucker's narrow escape after striking overhead power line

Date:
22 February 2013

A Merseyside trucker could have been killed when his vehicle hit an 11,000 volt overhead power line as he tipped fertiliser onto farmland in Maghull, a court has heard.

His employer, BP McKeefry Ltd, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the firm’s employees had not received adequate training for managing the risks from overhead cables.

Sefton Magistrates’ Court in Bootle heard that the 26-year-old from Liverpool had been delivering the fertiliser to Lydiate Hall Farm on Southport Road on 14 March 2011 when the incident happened.

He tipped the fertiliser onto the ground and moved his vehicle forward, with the trailer still raised, to empty the remaining contents. As he did this, the corner of the trailer struck an overhead power line approximately seven metres above the ground.

The worker, who does not want to be named, jumped from the truck when he heard popping sounds and noticed the tyres on the driver’s side of the vehicle were on fire. He jumped back into the vehicle to move it away after spotting it was touching an overhead cable.

The court was told BP McKeefry’s employees’ should have been trained not to raise trailers within at least ten metres of power lines. They should also have known not to re-enter vehicles touching overhead cables until they had been made safe.

BP McKeefry admitted a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of its employees. The company, of Grove Road in Swatragh, Northern Ireland, was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 in prosecution costs on 21 February 2013.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Imran Siddiqui said:

"The worker was lucky not to be killed when his vehicle struck an overhead power cable, especially when he later jumped back into the vehicle while it was still in contact with the line.

"BP McKeefry specialises in transporting liquid and powder products, such as fertiliser, and so is used to delivering to farms where there may be overhead power lines.

"Despite this, the company failed to provide its employees with a suitable procedure for working near overhead cables, or guidance on what to do if they struck one."

Contact with an overhead line may cause the power supply to trip out temporarily but it may become live again automatically, without warning. More information is available at www.hse.gov.uk/electricity.

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

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