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UNDERGROUND CABLE STRIKE CAUSED 62% BURNS

Lack of basic precautions led to jack hammer striking 11kv cable

Dwyer Engineering Services has been fined £20,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £14,532 after a construction worker suffered 62% burns to his face and upper body when his jack hammer struck an underground 11kv cable.

Bradley Marsh, 28, from Ashford was in hospital for six weeks after the accident at a site in Tovil, Maidstone in June 2009.

Maidstone Magistrates Court heard that the company failed to manage the risk and lacked a suitable system in place for the identification of underground cables. A contributory factor was that the injured man had not received training to excavate within 500mm of the live cables.

Injured man unlikely to work again

Mr Marsh is still unable to expose himself to direct sunlight, due to the skin grafts. His home has been adapted so he can sleep downstairs. He is unlikely to work again.

HSE Inspector, David Fussell, said:

“This incident was wholly avoidable and demonstrates the need for site safety in the construction sector, especially as contact with live electricity is a common cause of serious incidents.

In this case, the employer failed to assess the risks to the operator who was digging in close proximity to 11,000 volt electrical cables.

If Dwyer Engineering Services Ltd had been prepared to spend a little time locating underground services, using signs, maps, and locating devices, then this incident would have been avoided.”

Comment

There is clear HSE guidance on working safety on avoiding danger from underground services.

This can be achieved by a safe system of work based on planning, use of plans, cable locating devices and safe digging practices. These four elements complement each other, and should all be used when working near buried cables.

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