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    Electrician suffers burns after preventable arc flashover

    McGill Electrical Ltd has been fined after a workman suffered burns to his face, hands and arms whilst carrying out live electrical testing. Gordon Roberts, aged 38, spent nine days in hospital following the incident on 2 December 2010.

    Dundee Sheriff Court was told that Mr Roberts, along with colleagues, was undertaking the testing inside an electricity substation at the premises of a manufacturing company in Dundee.

    He climbed a stepladder and removed bolted covers to gain access and test live conductors. When manoeuvring one of the bolted covers back in position after the testing a corner of the cover appears to have come into contact with live parts causing an electrical arc flashover.

    His colleague heard a bang and a flash just before all the lights went out and the room filled with smoke. Mr Roberts, who was not wearing the correct protective equipment supplied to him, was thrown off the stepladder but was able to walk out of the substation unaided.

    The safety manager at the premises used snow surrounding the substation to cool Mr Robert’s burns before an ambulance arrived. Mr Roberts was treated in hospital for burns to his face, hands and arms. He made a full recovery and returned to work two months later.

    Foreseeable that metal plate might inadvertently touch live parts

    The HSE investigation concluded that McGill Electrical Ltd failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the task of removing and replacing the bolted covers while the distribution boards were live.

    The firm also failed to have in place a safe system of work by failing to ensure that the electricity supply to the distribution boards was de-energised during removal and replacement of the covers.

    McGill Electrical Ltd of Harrison Road, Dundee, was fined £2,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

    Following the case, HSE Inspector Mac Young, said:

    “This incident was wholly preventable. It was foreseeable that a metal plate being manipulated in close proximity to live conductors could inadvertently touch live parts and cause a flashover.

    The system of work, which involved removal and replacement of bolted covers while the system was live, and without knowing what was behind the covers, exposed Mr Roberts to unnecessary risk.”

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