Farmers have been warned against the “severe dangers” of inadequate electrical safety systems in farm buildings.
The warning from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) comes after a woman was killed while cooking food in a farm caravan on a Warwickshire farm in 2017.
HSE said the accident, which resulted in two men being prosecuted at Warwick Crown Court, highlights the severe risks that can arise when farm equipment and buildings are poorly maintained.
The court heard Deana Simpson was electrocuted while using a cooker, which was poorly insulated and connected, at a caravan in Willoughby Farm, near Rugby.
Deana shared the caravan with James Atkins – son of Trevor Atkins, who owned the farm.
Deana was found collapsed at the cooker by James, who also received an electric shock when he touched it.
Five days after the incident, a qualified electrician examined the scene and found the electrical installation was in a poor and dangerous state. The electrician said the potential for an electric shock was immediately obvious, with poor and incorrect connections, inadequate earthing and no protective devices in place.
The investigation found the generator had been modified several weeks earlier by James Atkins, who was not an electrician. He had fitted a new invertor, despite being told the work needed to be done by a qualified electrician.
“This was a completely avoidable and foreseeable incident,” said Amy Kalay, who managed HSE’s involvement in the case.
“Equipment repairs or alterations to an electrical installation should only be carried out by people with knowledge of the risks and precautions needed. Normally this means a professional electrician.”
During the investigation it emerged Trevor Atkins had been complicit with the work his son had carried out, and as an employer he had a duty to maintain the electrical system relating to the caravan.
James Atkins was sentenced for gross negligence manslaughter, receiving six years and six months in prison, while Trevor was sentenced for charges under Section 3 of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
He received a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.