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PLANT ELECTRICAL ISOLATION

Double fatality and prosecution after failure to isolate plant

Two workmen died and their employers were fined over £60k after failing to ensure machinery was properly isolated. The investigating HSE Specialist Electrical Inspector said the incident could have been easily prevented “if the power supply to the machine they were working on had been properly isolated. The process of isolation means establishing a break in the power supply, normally by using a lockable switch, and then securing the switch in the ‘off’ position using a padlock to prevent it being switched back on until the work is finished.”  

The men were cleaning the inside of a mixer when the mixing paddles inside it started to rotate. The machine was switched off and emergency stop button pressed but a wiring error in the machine’s control system allowed it to start up under the control of a computer system.

Comment: This incident highlights the importance of effective power isolation when working on hazardous plant in all industries, including construction. If the electrical power supply to the machine had been isolated, it would not have been possible for it to have started while the men were working inside, even with the wiring error in the control system.

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