Last reviewed 19 January 2021
Following a recently concluded prosecution at Warwick Crown Court, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned against the severe dangers of inadequate electrical safety systems in farm buildings.
The workplace regulator has highlighted the substantial risks arising from using poorly maintained equipment after a woman was killed while cooking food in a farm caravan.
Deana Simpson was electrocuted in 2017 while using a cooker which was poorly insulated and connected at a caravan in Willoughby Farm, near Rugby.
Amy Kalay, HM Principal Inspector of health and safety, who managed HSE’s involvement in the case, said the case has highlighted the severe risks that can arise when farm equipment and buildings are poorly maintained.
“This was a completely avoidable and foreseeable incident,” she said. “Deana was killed because work on an electrical system hadn’t been done by a professional electrician with the right skills and experience.”
Ms Simpson shared the caravan with James Atkin, the son of the farmer, and he received an electric shock when he touched the cooker after finding her body.
In the course of the investigation led by Warwickshire Police, assisted by HSE, it was established that he had modified the generator several weeks earlier despite not being a qualified electrician.
Although he had been warned that the work needed to be done by someone qualified, Mr Atkin had fitted a new invertor.
The investigators concluded that his father, Trevor Atkin, had been complicit with the work his son had carried out on his property. As an employer, the HSE stressed, he had a duty to maintain the electrical system relating to the caravan to ensure that it was not dangerous.
James Atkin was sentenced for gross negligence manslaughter, receiving a sentence of six years and six months in prison. His father was sentenced for charges under s.3 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and received a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for 2 years.