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September 10, 2009

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Truck driver struck power cables at waste site

A workman suffered serious burns after the tipper truck he was operating came into contact with overhead power lines.

Newcastle-under-Lyme Magistrates’ Court heard that Andrew Perry, a self-employed truck driver, was transporting construction debris to a waste site in Cheadle, Staffordshire, when the incident took place on 3 September 2008. When he arrived at the site, he began tipping out the waste materials by using the vehicle’s exterior controls to operate the truck’s extendable arm.

While he was manoeuvring the vehicle’s arm it struck some overhead power cables and 33,000 volts of electricity surged through the truck. As a result of the shock, Mr Perry was thrown 1.5 metres from the vehicle. A man who witnessed the incident rushed over to attend to Mr Perry, and called the emergency services. Mr Perry was taken to hospital and received treatment for severe burns to his hands and feet. His injuries forced him to remain off work for 11 weeks.

HSE inspector, Lynne Boulton, said: “In this case, there were no barriers or warnings to prevent drivers visiting this site from tipping waste materials under the power lines and it was only a matter of time before an incident like this took place..”

The owner of the site, John Fallows, who trades as Fallows Recycling Services, appeared in court on 8 September and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.14 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, which states that no work should be carried out near a live conductor without suitable protective measures being in place. He was fined £1600 and ordered to pay £2214 in costs.

In mitigation, he said that he had no previous convictions and regretted the incident. He has subsequently blocked off access to the area surrounding the power lines and placed warning signs across the site.

Inspector Boulton added: “Mr Perry was very lucky not to have lost his life. Around 60 per cent of electrical fatalities at work are caused by inadvertent contact with overhead power lines. It’s important to remember that machinery and equipment do not need to touch power lines for electricity to be transmitted because it can arc or jump across gaps.”

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