Health & Safety News

News added on 18.11.2019

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Excavation work

Failure to locate underground services led to worker's 50% burns

A groundworks operative on a construction site sustained life-changing burns when his electric breaker struck a cable. How did his employer miss the presence of underground services?

G&R Groundworks (South East) Ltd (GR) was the groundworks contractor at a power generation site in Ramsgate, Kent. Its workers were using an electric ground breaker to dig fence post holes for perimeter fencing around a car park.

One of the operatives struck an 11kv underground electricity cable, causing a large flash. He was engulfed in flames, sustaining serious burns to approximately 50% of his body, including his face, chest, abdomen, groin, both arms and both legs.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and found that GR had not consulted the underground services plans before commencing work to determine the location of any cables within the planned working area. The HSE also found that the contractor had failed to provide its operatives with cable identification equipment to locate any cables while they were working.

GR pleaded guilty to breaching its duty under reg 25(4) Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, to take reasonable steps to prevent risks from underground services during construction work. It was fined £32,400 and ordered to pay costs of over £2,650.

This cable strike occurred because the contractor did not plan the work properly. Before commencing any sort of excavation work, contractors must locate underground services and make sure that workers know where they are. A safe system of work must be in place to ensure that the cables are avoided and that, wherever possible, the power supply is isolated while work is carried out nearby.

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