Farm worker electrocuted – firm fined

A FARMING company has been fined £120,000 after a North Yorkshire man was electrocuted by overhead power lines while harvesting crops.

Edward Pybus, 21, from Northallerton, was working as a casual farm worker driving a combine harvester in a field near Ludgershall, in Wiltshire, when he received the fatal shock, on August 6, 2007.

Salisbury Crown Court heard the harvester driven by Mr Pybus, who had been employed by Herefordshire-based Velcourt Ltd, had its grain spout left in an extended position due to a mechanical problem.

When he had stopped the harvester to clear stones and soil from the machine, the spout was touching one of the power lines and as Mr Pybus stepped to the ground he received the fatal 6,300-volt shock.

Velcourt Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and in addition to the £120,000 fine, the company was also ordered to pay costs of £45,000.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to adequately inspect, monitor, supervise or audit health and safety management at the farm.

It also discovered Velcourt had failed to ensure the farm manager received adequate health and safety training and, as a result, no risk assessments had been carried out at the farm for working in fields with overhead power lines nor had the farm workers received adequate training on how to work safely.

Mr Pybus’ mother, Rachel Pybus, said: “Edward was a wonderful young man, funny, vibrant, on the brink of his adult life with so many plans, hopes and dreams.

“He was to start a new job after the harvest and was hoping to set up home with his girlfriend. None of us can really believe he is gone.

“Young men temporarily employed on farms during busy periods, such as harvesting, may have a lot of experience in farming but many of them are still very young and their life experience is limited. They are owed a duty of care by their employer and that should be paramount.”