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MANAGER IN DOCK WITH COMPANY AFTER FIREBALL INCIDENT

Cable strike occurred despite manager awareness of guidance on precautions 

RVB Investments UK Ltd and manager Clifford Leigh have been prosecuted after two workmen were engulfed in a fireball when they severed a live 1,000 volt electrical cable at an industrial unit in August 2010.

Telford Magistrates heard that the workmen were instructed to locate an underground water leak at an empty industrial unit owned by the company. Mr Leigh gave instructions to excavate using an electrical drill and the drill struck the live cable at a depth of 40cm.

A fireball engulfed the men who suffered burns to their hands, arms and faces. Both were airlifted to hospital and one was so seriously injured that doctors initially believed he might not survive.

The court heard the estimated power of the fireball was equivalent to 4.3 million watts of energy. The heat was so intense that part of the electrical breaker’s metal tool was vaporised and a 500 amp fuse was blown in a nearby electrical substation.

HSE investigators found risks had not been assessed and a safe system of work devised. Site plans of the area were not checked to determine if there were cables underground. The two men received no training about the dangers arising from underground services.

Avoidable incident that could easily have been fatal

RVB Investments UK Ltd, of Hurst Street, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act Section 2(1) and werre fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £4,420 costs.

The court also heard that Mr Leigh was aware of guidance detailing how to dig safely near underground services yet he failed to ensure that proper precautions were taken before work started. He pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act Section 7(a) and was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE principal inspector Nic Rigby said:

“As this case demonstrates, hitting a live electrical cable is a very real danger and can easily result in deaths or serious injuries. Companies must take measures to protect workers who are digging into the ground, where gas and electricity services may be found.

They must obtain site plans from service providers, use a cable avoidance tool to scan and check what is actually under the surface, and ensure that workers are properly trained and digging is carried out safely.

All employees, such as Clifford Leigh, have a responsibility to ensure that they take reasonable care for the safety of their fellow employees when making decisions about how work should be carried out. RVB Investments UK Ltd and Clifford Leigh failed to do this and as a result two men were seriously injured in an avoidable incident that could easily have been fatal.”

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One Response to “MANAGER IN DOCK WITH COMPANY AFTER FIREBALL INCIDENT”

  1. HSE ENFORCEMENT WEEKLY UPDATE 15 FEBRUARY 2012 | PP Construction Safety News Desk Says:

    […] R V B Investments UK Limited – struck 1kV live electrical cable: £10,000; […]