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October 10, 2011

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Three parties fined over electrocution of worker

A Polish workman was electrocuted after coming into contact with an 11,000-volt overhead power cable while dismantling a marquee at Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, on 30 April 2007.

Two companies and an individual were fined by Gloucester Crown Court on 29 September after a prosecution brought by Tewkesbury Borough Council in partnership with the Police, which entailed a four-year investigation.

The Court heard that Krysztof Wiecek, 45, had been employed by Zomar Marquees to take down the marquee, which had been used for the Spring Grand Sale in the grounds of the Cotswolds castle. 

Tewkesbury Borough Council’s commercial services manager, Sonia Bagshaw, told SHP that the marquee had been erected beneath overhead power lines without leaving enough space between the top of the marquee and the cables.

“The marquee should never have been placed in that spot in the first place,” she observed. “There was no safe system of work, the defendants failed to provide adequate safety equipment, and a safe method of working at height. They did not take suitable measures to protect the Polish worker and they failed to give sufficient health and safety training and adequately translated instructions to him.

“They also did not carry out a site survey prior to the erection of the marquee, neither did they produce a site log to explain what happened.”

While on the roof of the marquee holding a spanner and standing on a metal frame, Mr Wiecek touched the power lines, which were located less than a metre above him. He died later in hospital.

Three parties appeared in court and pleaded guilty to the following charges:

  • Sudeley Castle and event organiser Value For Money – a breach of s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of non-employees (fine – £10,000 and £11,000, respectively);
  • James Pemble, a director of Zomar Marquees – a breach of s37 of HSWA 1974 by neglecting to take protective measures (fine – £8000). Zomar Marquees is now in administration.

Sudeley and Value for Money were ordered to pay a contribution to costs of £10,000 each, while Pemble had to pay a contribution of £8000.

Each of the parties mitigated that the other parties had been directly at fault for the death and that the incident had not been their responsibility.

Judge Jamie Tabor said: “The place where the marquees were erected was wholly inappropriate and contrary to good practice. Expert evidence said Krysztof Wiecek should never have been allowed on the roof.”

Sonia Bagshaw concluded: “If there had been proper planning and control in placing the marquee in a safe location, as well as proper protection given to workers on the site, then this terrible incident could have been avoided.”

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