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Employee suffers critical burns from power lines

27 AUGUST 2012
Employee suffers critical burns from power lines

AVO-PLUS LIMITED, which provides harvesting services to the avocado growing industry, has been fined $10,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $75,000 after one of its employees suffered significant burns as a result of receiving electric shocks from overhead power lines at an avocado orchard last year.

The Tauranga District Court heard today that the victim was operating one of the company’s 6.4 metre horticulture elevating working platforms (HEWPs) to pick avocados at heights where they could not be picked from the ground.

On 14 October 2011 the victim was picking the last pocket of avocados high in the tree and was in the cage of one of the four-wheeled HEWPs when he received major electrical and flame burns to approximately 50 per cent of his body, after receiving two electric shocks from 110kV overhead power lines as a result of flashovers.

“This terrible accident serves as a warning for all employers and their employees tasked with carrying out work close to overhead power lines. There is simply no room for complacency,” says MBIE Labour Group’s Central Regional General Manager, Ona de Rooy.

“It is every employee’s right to return home safe and well to their loved ones at the end of the working day.

“AVO-Plus Limited should have identified an exclusion zone of trees under and adjacent to the power lines, ensured employees wore harnesses while operating the HEWPs, identified and adequately monitored a clear rule that no avocados were allowed to be picked within the four metre minimum safe approach distance limit, and ensured employees were adequately supervised by a trained spotter to ensure they did not encroach the four metre limit. A practical step would have been to use equipment that did not encroach on the four metre limit, and to ensure employees received adequate instruction and information about how to safely undertake the task.

“Using the correct equipment for the job, and following to the letter the correct safety procedures could have prevented this unnecessary accident,” says Ms de Rooy.


Notes to Editor

• AVO-PLUS LIMITED appeared in the Tauranga District Court today.
• AVO-PLUS LIMITED was charged with one offence under Section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, which states:

Every employer shall take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees while at work; and in particular shall take all practicable steps to—
(a) provide and maintain for employees a safe working environment; and
(b) provide and maintain for employees while they are at work facilities for their safety and health; and
(c) ensure that plant used by any employee at work is so arranged, designed, made, and maintained that it is safe for the employee to use; and
(d) ensure that while at work employees are not exposed to hazards arising out of the arrangement, disposal, manipulation, organisation, processing, storage, transport, working, or use of things—
(i) in their place of work; or
(ii) near their place of work and under the employer's control; and
(e) develop procedures for dealing with emergencies that may arise while employees are at work.

• The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 is available online:

• The Department of Labour website has information about the safe use of forklifts: .

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