Electrical burns on demolition project

Bar thrown at electrical equipment to prove dead …revealed system live

Two companies have been fined after a workman received serious electrical burns during demolition work on a project in Essex in April 2017.

Chelmsford Magistrates heard how the two demolition workers were removing electrical distribution equipment from a switchgear room at the former Molecular Products site in Thaxted.

One of the men was told by the Principal Contractor that the electrical equipment was isolated. In order to reassure his colleague that the system was safe he “threw a crowbar” at the 400V AC equipment.

The bar came into contact with live exposed conductors causing a flashover and temperatures of several thousand degrees, followed by a subsequent fire.

The workman suffered serious burn injuries and was immediately hospitalised.

Failure to follow method statement

HSE investigators found that the task being undertaken had not been properly planned and suitable control measures were not implemented to ensure the isolation of the power supply.

The CDM 2015 appointed Principal Contractor failed to follow the clear procedures outlined in their risk assessments and method statements. These stated that all equipment must be treated as live unless written authorisation proved otherwise.

  • Russell Haigh and Stuart Haigh (Partners of R B Haighs & Sons) – of Thaxted, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and have been fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3882.65.
  • AJ Wadhams & Co Limited (T/A Wadham Homes) – of Charterhouse Street, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and have been fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3816.60.

After the hearing HSE inspector Adam Hills said“This incident has had a significant impact on Mr Banks life and the injuries could so very easily have been fatal. Had the companies followed the control measures outlined in their respective risk assessments, then this incident would not have occurred.

Never assume that an electrical supply is disconnected. Always check with the Distribution Network Operator or a qualified electrician to obtain written proof of isolation before commencing work.”