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CLIENT AND CONTRACTOR FINED OVER CABLE STRIKE

Both parties required to provide information on services

Egger (UK) Ltd and Northern Construction Solutions Ltd have been prosecuted over “failings with the management of groundworks” after an excavator struck an 20kV underground cable in March 2013 on Egger’s Hexham site.

Newcastle Magistrates heard (25 March) that groundworks and civil engineering works were contracted to Northern Construction Solutions Ltd and two of their workers were excavating an area in front of a newly-built electric substation for the installation of drainage.

During the work the bucket of an excavator came into contact with the cable. Both workers avoided injury, but it was a serious incident that warranted an HSE investigation.

HSE Inspectors found that Egger was responsible for the provision of a services diagram that included the location of underground electric cables, and was also responsible for keeping it updated.

However, they failed to update the diagram following construction of the substation and re-routing of the electric cables. Northern Construction Solutions was therefore not provided with up-to-date information regarding the location of the cables.

The court heard that both parties had a duty to provide workers under their control with the information they needed. Instead, they accepted the out-of-date services diagram, even though they knew there had been changes made in the area to be excavated.

Appropriate planning and control lacking

Egger (UK) Ltd, of Anick Grange Road, Hexham, Northumberland, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £578.90 costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

Northern Construction Solutions Ltd, of 6 Lumley Court, Drum Road, Chester le Street, Co Durham, was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £761.60 costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulation 13(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

After the case, HSE Inspector Andrea Robbins said:

“Fortunately nobody was hurt in this incident. However, the potential for serious, even fatal, injuries was foreseeable.

Had both Egger and Northern Construction Solutions adequately planned and managed the risks arising from contact with live underground cables before the excavation work started, e.g. isolation of the services, provision of up-to-date and accurate information on the location of the underground services, then this incident would have most probably been avoided.

The construction industry needs to be more aware of the dangers of working in the vicinity of live underground services. Appropriate planning and control measures should always be in place. A failure to do so could result in inadvertent contact with the live cables, the consequences of which can be fatal.”

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