Underground cable strike causes 50% burns

Workman seriously injured using hand-held breaker to excavate post holes

A groundworks contractor has been prosecuted after a hand-held breaker struck an underground electricity cable resulting in multiple serious burn injuries to the user in October 2018.

Folkestone Magistrates heard that workmen were using the electric ground breaker to excavate fence post holes for a car park perimeter fence at a Cummins Power Generation site in Ramsgate, Kent.

During this work the hand-held tool struck an 11kv electricity cable causing a large flash and engulfing the workman in flames. He sustained serious burns to his face, chest, abdomen, groin, both arms and both legs, amounting to approximately 50% total body surface area burns.

Plans absent and cable locator not used

HSE investigators found that the company failed to obtain and refer to the underground services plans prior to breaking the ground so as to determine the location of any cables within the planned working area.

The company failed to provide and use cable identification equipment to further locate any cables within that area.

  • G&R Groundworks (South East) Ltd – of St Lawrence Avenue, Ramsgate, Kent, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 25 (4) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and was fined £32,400 and ordered to pay costs of £2,657.18.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Ross Carter said“This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.

If a suitable safe system of work was followed prior to the incident, the life changing injuries sustained by the operative would have been prevented.”