Page last updated at 15:49 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 16:49 UK

Fine for electrocution fruit farm

Strawberry
The berry picker had been erecting polytunnels when he was electrocuted

A fruit farmer has been fined after a berry picker was killed by an 11,000 volt shock from an overhead cable.

Polish worker Gerard Faltynowski, 26, died when he struck the cable with part of a polytunnel at Mains Field, Blairgowrie, in July 2006.

Farmer Peter Thomson had been warned about the danger just two weeks before the accident, but took no action.

Thomson was fined £1,800, while the company, Thomas Thomson (Blairgowrie) Ltd, was fined £9,000.

At Perth Sheriff Court, Thomson admitted failing to carry out an adequate risk assessment.

The company he owns with his wife Melanie admitted failing to provide a safe system of work whereby the migrant worker was killed.

The offences took place between 1 July and 28 July 2006 while the company was at the peak of the strawberry season.

Cases of this kind are always tragic and distressing and this is no different
Sheriff Michael Fletcher

The court was told that two weeks before the fatal accident a Scottish Hydro Electric employee had seen the workers putting the polytunnels up near the overhead lines and warned them of the dangers.

Thomson told the electricity company worker that he had informed his staff of the hazard.

On 28 July, Mr Faltynowski - who was working his third summer at the farm - stacked up 13 pieces of equipment and began to carry them across the field.

The court heard that a colleague started to shout a warning but saw a blue flash and Mr Faltynowski falling to the ground.

Health and safety experts who assessed the work practices at the farm said a safe corridor should have been set up either side of the power cables.

The court heard that if the proper minimum procedures had been implemented the Polish student would not have died.

Solicitor Vikki Watt, defending the company, said it had been "a terrible, tragic incident" which had left those involved "deeply saddened."

"The company fully accept they failed to take precautionary measures of having safe zones extending to nine metres either side of the overhead power lines," she said.

Sheriff Michael Fletcher said: "Cases of this kind are always tragic and distressing and this is no different."



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