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LARGE FINE IMPOSED AFTER UNDERGROUND CABLE STRIKE

Severe burns were caused by failure to devise and implement safe systems

Fugro Engineering Services Ltd of Oxfordshire has been fined ordered to pay £85,000 in fines and prosecution costs after a workman sustained life-threatening burns when a hydraulic breaker he was using struck a high voltage electric cable.

The incident occurred during construction work on the new Crossrail railway in February 2008 where Fugro were appointed principal contractor to deliver a series of ground investigations as part of the multi-billion pound project.

The Central Criminal Court heard that a Fugro employee was using a hydraulic breaker to create an inspection pit for a borehole in Hanover Street, London, when the breaker struck a high voltage electric cable. He suffered severe injuries as was treated for 60 per cent burns.

Avoidance tool used but location of cables not marked

HSE investigators found that the system of work in place failed to ensure the roles of those involved in the project were clearly defined. Effective lines of communication were not established and appropriate training in safe digging techniques was not provided to operatives.

Key safety documentation showing the presence of the cable was not kept at the borehole location. The site was scanned with a cable avoidance tool but no markings were made on the road to indicate where cables were found.

Fugro Engineering Services Ltd, of Wallingford, Oxfordshire, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in relation to the incident. The company was fined £55,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 in costs.

After the hearing HSE inspector Lisa Chappell said:

“It is completely foreseeable that electric cables would be present in a busy London street, and there is well-established guidance and training to ensure digging is carried out safely.

Had Fugro Engineering Services provided the correct training, supervision and a safe system of work, proportionate to the level of risk involved, then this serious incident could have been avoided.”

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