A Tayside painter and decorator who died after being electrocuted may not even have come into direct contact with the overhead power cables that killed him.
A Fatal Accident Inquiry held at Perth Sheriff Court into the death of 37-year-old father-of-one Martin Buchan heard the ladder he had been carrying did not need to come into contact with the 11,000 volt power line for electricity to “arc” across the air and deliver the fatal shock.
However, it found the accident could have been prevented had Mr Buchan, from Dundee, laid out markers to ensure he did not carry the ladder or any other equipment into the path of the power lines.
Mr Buchan had been working with a friend, Mark Tait at East Leys Lodge in Errol on April 2 last year when the accident occurred.
The determination by Sheriff William Wood stated the pair had “inadvertently” moved below the power lines in order to shorten the ladder.
He wrote: “As Mr Tait continued to anchor his end of the ladder, Mr Buchan picked up the far and, pushing the ladder upward as he went, he then ‘walked’ his hands down the ladder as he pushed it towards a vertical position.
“Suddenly – when Mr Buchan was closing on Mr Tait – he heard him scream. The top of the ladder had either fleetingly touched the overhead power line or come sufficiently close for it to ‘arc’ across.”
Mr Tait, 44, told the inquiry he saw smoke coming from his friend’s head and called 999.
He was given instructions on how to perform CPR and he was taken to hospital by ambulance.
He had suffered a cardiac arrest and a significant brain injury due to the supply of oxygen to his brain being cut off. Mr Buchan died two days later.
An Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks report into the accident said as there was no damage to the power lines, any contact would have been “fleeting” rather than “sustained”.
In conclusion, Sheriff Wood stated: “It is clear that Mr Buchan’s death as a result of electrocution was caused by no more than a moment’s inattention.
“It is clear that simple steps could and should have been taken by him.
“It would have been a simple thing to do for Mr Buchan, in the absence of any markers of his own, to have moved the patio furniture to a safe distance in front of the power lines in order to prevent any encroachment.”
He added: “While I endorse the view of the Health and Safety Executive that best practice should always entail a consultation of the available guidance on the issue – now widely and easily available through an internet search – I also recognise that not all proprietors of small businesses such as Mr Buchan will take the time and trouble to do that.
“Clearly, it is to be hoped that, as a result of this inquiry, more will do so in the future in order to prevent avoidable tragedy.”