Farming and drilling contractors fined after mast strikes power line

Two Norfolk-based companies have been fined after a worker suffered life-changing injuries following an overhead power line strike.

Norwich Crown Court heard that L F Papworth Ltd and T. W. Page & Son Ltd had organised drilling work for the purposes of crop irrigation at Felmingham, Norfolk.

Jon Howes

Jon Howes, of Old Costessey. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

On 29 April 2014 Jonathan Howes, an employee of T.W. Page & Son Ltd, was operating the controls of a lorry mounted drilling rig. A colleague moved the lorry and its mast came into contact with an 11kV power line over a field. Mr Howes suffered serious injury including extensive burns to his scalp, arms, legs and feet and loss of two toes.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident found that neither company had taken effective precautions to prevent work equipment, including the mast of the drilling rig, which was capable of extending to a height greater than that of the powerlines, from coming into contact with them.

L F Papworth Ltd of Felmingham, Norfolk pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £134,000 with £6484,45 costs.

T.W. Page & Son Ltd of Frettenham, Norfolk pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £80,400 with £6596,05 costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Jessica Churchyard said:

“This tragic incident has had devastating consequences for Jonathan Howes and his family.

“Similar incidents involving overhead power line strikes remain all too common in Great Britain and are almost always entirely avoidable.

“Duty holders planning, organising and carrying out such work must ensure that site-specific risks are identified and controlled. 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.”