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Company director sentenced to home detention for safety failings

The Director of a house-moving company has been sentenced to four months home detention, and his company fined $60,000, after a house he was transporting brought down a power line. The power line was left live on the side of the road, killing six lambs, five ewes and two sheep dogs. The shepherd narrowly avoided being electrocuted in the incident.

Arthur Britton’s company, Britton Housemovers Limited, was sentenced  on 12 February 2015 in the Hastings District Court on charges under the Electricity Act 1992, and Health and Safety in Employment Act.

On 18 December 2013, the company was moving a house under Britton’s direction along Herbertville Road in Herbertville. The house crashed into the power line which then snapped and fell onto the roof of the house. An employee used a wooden stick to move the power line into a roadside ditch.

Several sheep walked into the ditch and were electrocuted. Two sheep dogs then ran after the sheep and they were also electrocuted. The shepherd reached out to grab the dead sheep but was pulled back at the last moment by the farmer, narrowly avoiding electrocution.

The house-moving convoy moved on, but the farmer and the shepherd chased after the convoy and told them what had happened. Following a verbal dispute, a Britton Housemovers employee returned to the scene to put cones down. Even after this argument, no Britton Housemovers employee called the appropriate authorities – they were called by the farmer.

“Electricity is unforgiving. Leaving a live line on the side of the road and not notifying anyone is unacceptable - the shepherd and others in the vicinity could have been killed,” says Brett Murray, General Manager High Hazards and Specialist Services.

“This company was involved in a similar incident three years ago. There is no excuse for their behaviour and they were very lucky that the farmer’s quick thinking stopped a possible death.

“Britton and his company did so many things wrong in this incident. Home detention and a large fine sends a clear message to others. It is also worth considering the consequences for this company if there had been a death.”