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Irrigation pipe contacts an OHPL

Summary

An employee suffered a serious electric shock when he contacted a 33kV overhead power line (OHPL) with an aluminium irrigation pipe whilst trying to remove a rabbit from the pipe.

The aluminium pipes had been stored directly under the OHPL and were being loaded onto a nearby trailer. While lifting a pipe to try to remove a rabbit from inside, it either came into direct contact with or very close to one of the conductors. The resultant flashover knocked the worker over causing burns to his right shoulder and right foot and burnt a hole in the pipe. Thankfully the employee survived the electrical shock, but he could easily have been killed.

Although the company had a carried out a risk assessment, there were no written instruction/systems of work for managing the risks of handling irrigation pipes in the vicinity of OHPLs.

The investigation concluded that:

  1. The company had not developed any arrangements for handling irrigation pipes even though irrigation was a key part of the business.
  2. It would have been reasonably practicable to have stored the pipes away from the 33kV OHPL. Had this been done, the pipes could have been handled and loaded safely.

Action

The company was prosecuted under section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company pleaded guilty and was fined £3,000 plus £1,222.78 towards the prosecution costs.

Advice

Do not store irrigation pipes or other materials and equipment near or under power lines and their supports;

You should ensure that operators and workers are informed of the risks and of the locations of OHPLs wherever machinery or equipment is to be used or handled, and of the precautions to be taken. Further guidance is contained in HSE's Agriculture Information Sheet no 8 (revised) Working safely near overhead power lines [35kb] .

2013-10-25