Electrician died after falling from potato box balanced on forklift truck at Yorkshire farm

A 69-year-old self-employed electrician suffered fatal head injuries while carrying out a "dangerous activity" at a farm where he had worked for around 45-years, a jury inquest heard.

Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 10:03 am

John Harvey was stood in a empty wooden potato box which was being lowered by a forklift truck at Church Farm in Darrington near Pontefract when the box slipped and he fell around 6ft to the ground, the jury at Wakefield Coroner's Court heard.

The inquest was told the potato box, which the jury heard weighed more than 100 kilos, then struck Mr Harvey on the head during the incident at the pig and arable farm on Philips Lane on October 20 2017.

Mr Harvey, of Linden Terrace, Pontefract, was flown by air ambulance to Leeds General Infirmary where he was pronounced dead three days later.

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Wakefield Coroner's Court.

The jury was told Mr Harvey had decided to carry out a non-urgent repair of the winch motor of a ventilation shutter in the roof space of a potato store at the farm.

He stood in a 6ft long and 4ft wide potato box placed on the tines of a forklift truck and asked a farm worker to operate the truck to lift him up around 15ft to where he needed to work.

The potato box was not secured to the forklift truck's tines and slipped while he was being lowered to the ground by a second farm worker, the jury inquest heard.

The farm had a piece of equipment called a man riding cage, which was designed for working at heights and could be safely attached to a forklift truck.

Mr Harvey had previously used the man riding cage to work at heights at the farm and the jury was told it was not known why he had decided to use the potato box on that occasion.

Assistant coroner Jan Alam asked Health and safety executive inspector Sarah Lee: "Is it your understanding that it was Mr Harvey's decision to use the potato box in the way he did and that he did have access to the man riding cage?"

Miss Lee replied: "Yes."

Miss Alam asked: "Were you able to ascertain what Mr Harvey's rationale might have been for not using the man riding cage?"

Miss Lee replied "I have absolutely no idea. For whatever reason he decided to use the potato box, perhaps because it was right next to where he was working."

Miss Alam asked Miss Lee: "You have described how Mr Harvey made the decision to use the potato box to be raised and lowered on the forklift.

In your view was that a dangerous activity?"

Miss Lee replied: "Yes."

Farmer Peter Batty told the inquest close friend Mr Harvey had done electrical work at Church Lane Farm for 45-years and started as an apprentice when his (Mr Batty's) grandfather ran the farm.

Mr Batty said Mr Harvey was a self-employed electrical contractor who worked at the farm three or four times a month and paid regular social visits.

Reading a statement from Detective Sergeant Joe Aspinall of West Yorkshire Police, assistant coroner Miss Alam said: "This appears to be a tragic accident which has sadly led to the death of John Harvey."