Lorry driver who received 25 per cent burns and lost part of a leg when his tipper trailer touched overhead cables in line for up to £4m compensation
PUBLISHED: 12:28 11 December 2018 | UPDATED: 13:24 11 December 2018
A Fenland lorry driver won the right to damages – that could total up to £4 million – after he was electrocuted when his tipper trailer touched overhead cables.
The injuries he sustained resulted in him receiving 25 per cent burns to his body and the amputation of part of a leg.
An eye witness at the time described the moment Mr Chisholm was set alight after his vehicle hit the power cables.
“The driver was outside the vehicle tipping the back up when it struck the cables,” said the eye witness.
“He was thrown back and we thought he was dead. He was on fire. The fire brigade and air ambulance arrived very quickly, within minutes.”
Judge Jeremy Johnson QC ruled that Gary Chisholm’s employers D&R Hankins Ltd of Manea had inadequate health and safety procedures and that as a consequence he can recover damages.
The judge heard that Mr Chisholm’s lorry came in to close proximity or made contact with power lines and he sustained an electric shock resulting in him suffering life changing injuries.
Justice Johnson found that D&R Hankins had committed safety breaches and he ruled that Mr Chisholm should receive substantial damages from his then employer.
The judge said the company’s health and safety breaches were 75 per cent responsible for the accident after it was found they had no specific risk assessment for the dangers involved in cleaning out lorries on the highway.
“I find that Mr Chisholm was never told that he must not tip his trailer when cleaning it out,” he said.
Had Mr Chisholm been clearly instructed not to raise his trailer during cleaning, he would have obeyed.
“I am therefore satisfied that Hankins’ breaches of duty were a material cause of his accident. Hankins breached its duty of care to Mr Chisholm,” Justice Johnson said.
However the court also ruled that because the overhead lines were “highly visible” it was felt Mr Chisholm could not absolve himself of all responsibility and so damages could be reduced by a quarter.
Mr Chisholm, of Lake Close, March, was a tipper lorry driver at the time of his accident in February 2016.
His job involved the collection, delivery and transportation of a variety of products. Part of his job was to ensure there was no cross-contamination of loads.
In order to clean his trailer he had parked his vehicle in a lay-by in Block Fen Drove to clear out any grain left in it before collecting aggregate from Bardon Aggregates in the same road. The lay by had 11kV electricity power lines at a height of 7.3 metres. The trailer touched, or came into very close proximity with, the high voltage overhead power lines.
The case centred on D&R Hankins Ltd’s health and safety procedures, with Mr Chisholm’s barrister, Daniel Lawson, describing the employer’s risk assessment procedures as “inadequate”.
Following yesterday’s ruling, Mr Chisholm said: “The trial has been an incredibly stressful time for my family and I. I now hope to be able to put this chapter behind me and focus on my rehabilitation.”
Mr Chisolm suffered severe burn injuries affecting 25 per cent of his body surface. He underwent multiple surgical procedures including a below knee amputation of the right leg.
He has extensive bodily scarring. He has reduced function in his right upper limb and suffers pain in the amputation stump, right elbow and back and phantom limb pain. His lawyers say there is a 15 per cent risk of his stump failing which would result in him requiring a trans-femoral amputation of the right leg.
Nichola Fosler of Stewarts, who represented Mr Chisholm, said: “This was a terrible accident which has affected Mr Chisholm’s life forever.
“This judgment hopefully highlights the need for employers to provide adequate training and to have systems of work in place to avoid accidents involving overhead power lines.”
The court heard the firm also failed to implement and enforce safe systems of work in respect of those tasks, “even after another employee had a similar accident.”