BSR hit with £250,000 fine following safety failings

British Solar Renewables (BSR) has been hit with a £250,000 fine after a worker was left with severe injuries suffered from electrocution at one of the company’s solar farm sites.

Ashley Coe, an agency employee working on behalf of electrical firm Pascon, was helping to lay cable on the site of the installation at Knockworthy Farm near Torrington in March 2013 when a digger struck overhead cables carrying 33kV. Mr Coe was helping to control a cable drum suspended from the arm of the excavator when the incident occurred.

Exeter Crown Court heard on 8 January that BSR had failed to install goal posts and signage to warn of the presence of overhead power lines in the area. In addition, Pascon had failed to assess the risks of working under the overhead power lines, and subsequently had not appropriately planned, managed and monitored the work in order for it to be carried out safely.

However, a spokesperson from BSR told Solar Power Portal: “The vehicle passed beneath overhead cables at a point which was not the designated crossing point on the site. Fencing had been put in place by BSR to prevent vehicles crossing in areas other than the designated crossing point. Unfortunately the fencing was moved by those on the site and the vehicle entered into the exclusion zone and underneath the overhead cables.

As a result of the incident, the court heard that Coe has experienced a number of life-changing injuries – some affecting his mobility and speech – and is unlikely to ever work again. Two other workers received shocks but escaped serious injury.

HSE inspector James Lucas said: “This incident was entirely preventable and arose from clear failures to plan, manage and monitor the work and to ensure that the construction site was set up with appropriate measures to control the risks of working under overhead power lines.

“Luckily Mr Coe was resuscitated, but he now suffers from life changing complications due the electric shock he received. He was extremely close to losing his life and this is down to the failure of both construction companies involved in the work.”

Both companies admitted to safety failings last month, with BSR now fined £250,000 with over £72,000 in additional costs, while Pascon told to pay £35,000 plus £25,000 in costs.

An additional statement released by BSR to Solar Power Portal said: “At BSR, we invest heavily in ensuring that health and safety of people on our sites is of paramount importance, and we are committed to achieving the highest level of safety. We are therefore deeply saddened that employees of a sub-contractor were injured at one of our sites, and extremely disappointed to have come before the court for a technical breach of legislation.

"The incident occurred three years ago and since that time BSR has been working even closer with all of its subcontracts to ensure that site safety is taken seriously, and that all parties involved in BSR developments understand the importance of complying with regulation."