Construction companies fined after employee receives electrical burns

Two companies have been fined after a worker received serious electrical burns during demolition work.

Chelmsford Magistrates Court heard how on the 12th April 2017, two demolition workers employed by sub-contractor R B Haigh & Sons were removing electrical distribution equipment from a switchgear room at the former Molecular Products site in Thaxted, Essex. Mr Alan Banks had been told by the principal contractor that the electrical equipment had been isolated. To reassure his colleague that it was safe he threw a crowbar at the 400V ac equipment. This came into contact with live exposed wires, causing a flashover and temperatures of several thousand degrees, followed by a subsequent fire. As a result, Mr Banks suffered serious burn injuries and was immediately hospitalised.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the task being undertaken had not been properly planned and suitable control measures were not implemented to ensure the isolation of the power supply. The principal contractor, A J Wadhams & Co Ltd failed to follow the clear procedures outlined in their risk assessments and method statements, which identified all equipment must be treated as live unless written authorisation proved otherwise.

Russell Haigh and Stuart Haigh (Partners of R B Haighs & Sons) of Thaxted, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and have been fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3882.65. 
AJ Wadhams & Co Limited trading as Wadham Homes of Charterhouse Street, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and have been fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3816.60.

After the hearing HSE inspector Adam Hills said “This incident has had a significant impact on Mr Banks life and the injuries could so very easily have been fatal. Had the companies followed the control measures outlined in their respective risk assessments, then this incident would not have occurred. Never assume that an electrical supply is disconnected. Always check with the Distribution Network Operator or a qualified electrician to obtain written proof of isolation before commencing work.”

HSE has published the following guidance on how to safely undertake work in proximity to electricity:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg85.htm

Notes to editors 

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. gov.uk[1]
  2. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at: legislation.gov.uk[2]
  3. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk
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