A farmer sustained a fatal electric shock after the equipment he was using came dangerously close to overhead power lines carrying 11,000 volts. The deceased had been helping out an elderly friend at his farm. He and another friend had finished working at around 4.20pm and their attention had turned to some trees in the farmyard.
The deceased said that he would come back the next weekend to trim the branches but he manoeuvred his telehandler into the farmyard to check it was capable of reaching them. He and his friend kept a close eye on the boom of the telehandler with regards to its proximity to overhead cables crossing the farmyard. The boom was around two feet away from the power lines when they stopped moving it. The deceased leant into the cab of the vehicle with his feet remaining on the ground. For an unknown reason, the boom then moved closer to the power lines. Although it did not make contact with the overhead cables, electricity arced from them onto the boom of the vehicle, electrocuting him. His friend tried to turn off the machine but received an electric shock and was thrown back eight feet. He then went to find a piece of wood to separate the deceased from the machine.
The inquest heard that the deceased was experienced at operating the telehandler, which was well maintained. He was competent and had been doing this type of work for some time. He was aware of the risks and did not take the work lightly.
Evidence given by Health and Safety Executive specialist inspector, said that the power lines were above the regulatory minimum height and would have conducted 11,000 volts of electricity. He said that it was likely that the boom came ‘within a reasonably close distance’ to create the arcing effect. He said the flow of power would have earthed itself through the nearest point of contact and the flow of least resistance. He added that industry guidelines recommended establishing a three-metre exclusion zone when working near overhead power lines.