Worker with Jackhammer

The Moment Workmen Cut Through an 11,000 Volt Cable

Posted By Kerry Budworth on 2015-12-19 12:49

Footage Released by HSE shows huge blast after construction workers unknowingly cut 11,000v cable

Health & safety assessment is important

Another case that shows the importance of proper health and safety assessments of work and workplace. If proper procedures had been followed, the incident could have been completely avoidable. 

Construction companies fined £90,000

Two construction companies have been fined £90,000 after two workers were seriously burned, and one scarred for life after they cut into a live 11,000v electrical cable in Millbank, London. Southwark Crown Court heard that the labourer and a bricklayer were working in a House of Lords site in London, on 1 July 2013, to lay bricks around a manhole. As one of the men, who was 22 at the time, was using a jackhammer he pierced an exposed electrical cable which was carrying 11,000 volts. 

In the ensuing blast both he and the other nearby worker received severe burns. The HSE released shocking footage which showed the moment the blast occurred and the aftermath. 

Warning, the following footage is distressing

Serious burns and scarring

The blast caused serious burns to the man's arms, legs, hands and face and he was in hospital for nearly a month after the incident. In the video it is clear that the blast in fact nearly blew his clothes off of him. The other worker, aged 63, suffered significant burns to the face and neck, and it was reported that he has since been treated for traumatic stress.

Clive Graham Associates Limited (CGA) of 55 Farrington Road, London, who was the principal contractor for the project, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £45,000 with £6,612 in costs.

The employer of the two injured workers, Bellmoor Construction Limited (Bellmoor) of Swakeleys Road, Ickenham, Uxbridge, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £45,000 with £6,612 in costs.

HSE investigation and findings

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation into the incident and the conditions found at the construction site. It found that CGA had failed to identify the risk from live electrical cables that had been dug up and exposed, it also failed to provide information warning that the incident cable was live, and failed to adequately manage the site and the contractor.

The investigation also found that Bellmoor also failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment before the work started, failed to provide effective supervision during the work and failed to check competence before allocating tasks including the operation of the jackhammer.

Andrew Verrall-Withers an HSE inspector commented after the hearing:

“This serious incident should be a warning to the industry about the need to identify the risks to workers’ safety before work begins, so they can be protected. Employers have a duty to check workers have sufficient skills, knowledge, experience and training before they allow them to use equipment such as jackhammers on construction sites. A key point is to not assume a worker can use the equipment safely, just because they may have operated it previously.The ferocious explosion resulted in some serious injuries . This incident could easily have resulted in a fatality, and other employers should take this as a warning about the risks of working near electrical cables.”

An avoidable accident

As with so many other incidents this was a pointless accident that could have been avoided with some thought. If a proper risk assessment had been undertaken and proper advice and instruction had been given to workers two lives would have not been affected in the dramatic manner in which they were. It is probably blind luck that there was not at least one fatality during this incident. 

You need to ensure that all of your health and safety precautions are continuous and each piece of work undertaken is assessed properly. This will help you to keep risks as low as reasonably possible. If you have any questions about health surveillance services in the UK, or you are looking for health and safety services in Leicester or across the UK, don't hesitate to call us on 01455 234 600 or contact us online. 

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