Northumberland fined for power line incident
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Northumberland County Council fined £13,400 after a crane jib struck a 20,000 volt overhead power line
By Roger Brown
NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY Council has been ined £13,400 after a crane jib placed on the back of a truck struck a 20,000 volt overhead power line at one of its depots.
In a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution, Bedlington Magistrates’ Court was told that on the day of the incident in February 2010, the driver had unloaded the lorry at the Stakeford Depot in Choppington with the crane jib left in the raised position.
However, when the driver drove off, it came into contact with the live power line, bringing the overhead line down to the ground, and placing other workers in the vicinity at risk.
The driver had never used the depot before and, as there were only two small signs warning about the power line, he was not aware it spanned that particular section of the site. An alarm on the crane – designed to sound when the jib was raised – had also been disabled.
The council pleaded guilty to one breach of Regulation 4(3) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, which states: “Every work activity shall be carried out in a manner as to not give rise to danger.” It was also ordered to pay £8,364.50 in costs.
Sally Brecken, HSE inspector, says the driver had a narrow escape that “could have easily been avoided” .
She adds: “Direct contact with electrical equipment at such high voltages is very likely to lead to fatal injuries. If the alarm on the crane had been functioning, the driver would have been aware the crane was still raised before driving off and if suitable control measures around the overhead power line had been in place, the driver would have known about it.
“The irst consideration should be to avoid working near overhead power lines. In this instance it was possible for them to be relocated, which has since been done as Northumberland County Council has re-routed the power line underground around the perimeter of the depot.” Northumberland County Council says it “deeply regrets” the incident.
“We have co-operated with the HSE throughout the investigation to ensure that this doesn’t happen again, and have carried out further works at the depot that are to their satisfaction,” a statement from the council adds.
HSE guidance suggests avoiding working near overhead power lines whenever possible, but if not avoidable then measures such as goalposts, clear zones beneath the line, designated vehicle sites and large warning signs should be used.
Avoidance of danger from overhead power lines can be downloaded free from the HSE website www.hse.gov.uk