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August 25, 2023

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Farm fined after man electrocuted

A farm has been fined £60,000 following the death of a man who was electrocuted by an overhead power line.

The lorry at VB Farms LLP. Credit: Health & Safety Executive (HSE)

Patrick ‘Paddy’ Rice was fatally electrocuted on 13 May 2021 while operating a tipper lorry at VB Farms LLP’s Littlecombe Farm in Crediton, Devon.

Employed by Langford Plant Hire, Paddy, who was from Crediton, was delivering stone that was going to be used to repair farm tracks by VB Farms LLP, when the hydraulic arm of the tipper lorry came into contact with an 11kV overhead power line.

He was electrocuted after exiting the lorry.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found VB Farms LLP failed to carry out an assessment of how the work could be completed safely and did not consider the dangers involved with working near an overhead power line.

Overhead power lines typically carry electricity at voltages similar to the 11 kV in this case, but can go up to 400 kV. Britain’s workplace regulator The HSE has said they are ‘concerned’ about the nationwide trend of farm machinery getting bigger, increasing the risk of contact with power lines.

‘Manage the risks involved’ 

Fran Rice, Paddy’s mother, said in a statement presented to the court: “Since the loss of Paddy, we are all traumatised and deeply shocked. It has all been hazy. We find it difficult to talk about what happened, Gordon, Paddy’s dad, does not talk a lot about it. We are living in a life that is carrying on and ours isn’t, we are not fitting in, we go out and want to enjoy what we do but it is never quite there.”

VB Farms LLP, of Love Street, Chester, was found guilty of breaching Regulations 3(1) and 4(3) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 following a trial at Exeter Magistrates’ Court. The company was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,715 on 17 August 2023.

HSE Inspector James Collins said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident – another sad reminder of the dangers of overhead powerlines.  Paddy’s death could easily have been prevented if VB Farms LLP had acted to manage the risks involved and put in place a safe system of work.”

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