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CABLE STRIKE CAUSED BY CONFUSED COMMUNICATIONS

Contractor fined over failure to manage underground cable danger

SIAC Construction Ltd has been fined after a worker was caught in an explosion after striking an buried live electricity cable.

Trevor Maloney, aged 32, suffered burns to both hands and his face in the incident on 24 April 2012. He was hospitalised for four days, but has since made a full recovery. The ground worker was unaware of the presence of the cable as he used an electric breaker to remove paving stone mortar.

The company had been contracted by Westminster City Council to redevelop London’s Leicester Square and that the project included substantial excavation and ground work to resurface the main terraces and side roads.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that the local authority instructed that shallow cables or pipework in areas to be concreted were to be protected by sand and steel plating. There was also a further requirement to put marker tape on plating covering electricity services so they could be easily identified in the event of future work.

However, a cable was discovered that was so shallow the preferred protective method could not be used. A ‘work-around’ was agreed between SIAC and the council.

In March 2012, part of the newly installed paving was disturbed and SIAC was asked to reinstate the paving. Trevor Maloney was one of two workers removing old mortar when minutes into starting the work he struck the shallow cable. 

Cable was concealed within mortar and unprotected

HSE found that the cable was partially above the concrete foundation and concealed within the mortar, unprotected by any steel plating.

Magistrates were told that had it been adequately protected, or its location properly identified to the ground workers as an area in which to take extreme care, then the incident could have been avoided.

SIAC Construction Ltd, of Monastery Road, Clondalkin, Dublin, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £5,002 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

After sentencing HSE Inspector Loraine Charles said:

“This was a serious incident that could have ended in tragedy, and Mr Maloney is very fortunate not to have been more seriously injured.

It is essential that when any work that might disturb live underground services is being carried out, all practicable steps are taken to determine the location of those services, and to arrange the work so that the risk of damaging any service is minimised.

That didn’t happen on this occasion and Mr Maloney and others were placed in unnecessary danger.”

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