Northgate Vehicle Sales Ltd, a Darlington company, has been fined fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £6,123.55 costs by Darlington Magistrates’ Court after a 41-year-old construction worker struck a buried electricity cable and sustained severe burn injuries to his face, neck and arms. The worker had been installing metal fencing while refurbishing the company’s car park when the incident occurred on 10 November 2010.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation following the incident and discovered that the company had not provided the construction workers with important information about existing hazards such as buried electricity cables. To install this metal fencing it was necessary for the construction workers to dig holes in the ground for the purpose of inserting the base of each fence post. Before this was carried out, the injured worker had been told that there were no buried electric cables.
As the worker was using ground breaker, the tip of it cut through an 11kV cable that was buried 80cm underground. This then caused a short circuit; at least one million watts of energy were discharged which evaporated the tip of the breaker. A cloud of flame and molten metal was created by this and this is how the worker suffered his burns.
Jonathan Wills, a HSE Inspector, had this to say following the incident’s court hearing –
“The injuries sustained by the worker could have easily resulted in him losing his life. He suffered severe burns and is still recovering from those injuries following an incident that could have been avoided had Northgate Vehicle Sales Ltd requested service plans and given them to those carrying out the construction work.
“The risk of striking underground cables is well known throughout the construction industry and the law says you must take precautions to avoid danger.
“There is a wealth of guidance available for contractors and the clients for whom the work is being carried out to help them manage the risks effectively.”
The latest figures show that seven people died as a result of contact with electricity or electrical discharge in the workplace in Great Britain in 2010/11 and 88 suffered a major injury.