Highlands & Islands

John MacKinnon FAI hears safety rules not followed

John MacKinnon
Image caption John MacKinnon was working on a forestry contract when he was killed

Rules on health and safety were not properly followed during forestry work which led to a haulier's death, a fatal accident inquiry has heard.

John MacKinnon was electrocuted after an overhead power line was cut in an area of forestry between Kyleakin and Broadford on Skye in December 2011.

Niall Miller, of the Health and Safety Executive, told the FAI there had been a "lack of clarity" on safety matters.

Safety poles called goalposts did not comply with rules, the inquiry heard.

Mr MacKinnon, 65, who ran the firm Skye Transport, was doing contract work for Munro Harvesting at Forestry Commission Scotland's Kyle Farm.

The inquiry earlier heard that the crane grab on his lorry was extended when he moved the vehicle to get better mobile phone reception.

Moments later an overhead line was severed and started a fire on the lorry.

Mr MacKinnon was electrocuted while escaping from the burning vehicle.

Health and safety principal inspector Mr Miller told Sheriff Margaret Neilson there were a number of precautions which should have been taken which may have prevented the accident.

'Lack of clarity'

He said the "goalposts" Mr MacKinnon drove through should have had a crossbar. The barrier would have acted as additional aid to warning the haulier of an overhead line, the inquiry heard.

Mr Miller said: "There was also a lack of clarity between the Forestry Commission and Munro Harvesting.

"The commission should have been driving the co-operation and communication between all the parties to ensure each knows its own role and responsibilities and that all information is passed down the supply chain."

He added: "There should have been a site visit to view what precautions were and weren't there well before work commenced and then agreement on who was going to action them.

"Everyone from landowners to the haulage contractor should be examining the site at all times to ensure it is safe to work there."

'Risk assessment'

The Forestry Commission's head of health and safety, Emily Ramsay, said Munro Harvesting should have been monitoring health and safety on the site.

But she added that forestry work was difficult to oversee.

Ms Ramsay also told the inquiry of actions that would have helped to avoid the accident.

She said: "There were a number of precautions which may have prevented this accident, and the goalposts were one of them.

"There was also a lack of on-site discussion and pre-commencement meeting about the hazards, who was responsible for actioning what was required and the monitoring of the site to ensure it complied with the risk assessment.

"I would place Mr MacKinnon driving with the jib up at the bottom of that list."

Health and Safety Executive electrical engineering specialist John Madden told the inquiry that Mr MacKinnon would have died almost instantly from the 132,000 volts which surged through his body.

But he said he might have survived if he had stopped the electricity forming a circuit by keeping his feet together.

Mr Madden said: "In circumstances like that, keep the feet together and bunny hop to safe ground, then you have a good chance of survival."

He added that it appeared Mr MacKinnon had jumped clear of the vehicle but the intense heat from the electricity melted the tyres, causing the metal wheels to energise the earth beneath them and quickly distribute the electric current across the ground.

Mr Madden said: "Once an electric current crosses the heart, it causes cardiac failure. The normal household voltage is only 230 and it can still cause electrocution.

"This was significantly in excess of that."

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