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PROSECUTION AFTER 11KV UNDERGROUND CABLE STRIKE

Thirteen foot flame erupts after steel bar strikes sub-station cable

Coast and Country Housing Ltd, of Redcar has been ordered to pay over £10k in fines and prosecutions costs after a workman suffered burns when a steel bar struck an 11,000 volt underground cable during tree planting operations in November 2009.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(3) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 at Teesside Magistrates’ Court.

Robert Stubbs, 24, of Redcar, was planting trees for the social housing landlord. He was using the five-foot steel bar to create a hole for a tree stake.

The bar struck the underground cable from a nearby substation causing a flame to shoot up thirteen feet injuring Mr Stubbs. He was taken to hospital with minor burns having released the bar before more serious injury was caused. He was off work for two weeks suffering from headaches.

Services team unaware of risk and precautions

An HSE investigation found the incident could have been avoided if a suitable and sufficient assessment had been carried out and the proper safety systems put in place.

Inspectors found that whilst the property maintenance department were aware of the risks and proper safety systems this was not the case for those in the estate services team, where Mr Stubbs worked.

HSE inspector, Laura Gifford, said:

“The danger from underground services are well known and it should be assumed that they are present unless proved otherwise. Sensible assessments are vital to highlight hazards that workers may face and to identify ways to control the risks.

Mr Stubbs suffered minor burns but it could have been a lot worse. Had a suitable risk assessment been carried out to highlight the risks and the proper safety systems put in place, this incident could have been avoided altogether.”

Around 1,000 electrical accidents at work are reported to HSE each year and about 25 people die from their injuries.

Comment

This incident is a timely reminder that it is not only breakers and excavators that strike underground services. Any implement breaking the ground can strike a cable which may not be at the depth anticipated. The proper use of utility plans, cable locating devices and safe digging practices are essential in all cases

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