A client and its subcontractor have been fined after a failure to properly manage groundwork put workers at risk of electrocution when a digger struck a 20kV underground cable.
Two workers engaged on behalf of civil engineers Northern Construction Solutions Ltd (NCS) – subcontractors of Campact Ltd, a subsidiary of Egger (UK) – were asked to excavate the area in front of a newly-built electric substation at Egger’s Hexham chipboard production plant.
As an excavator was digging a ditch ready for the installation of drainage its bucket came into contact with the underground electric cable. Both workers avoided injury, but it prompted an HSE investigation.
The two companies were fined a total of £12,000 after both pleading guilty to breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
Newcastle Magistrates’ Court was told yesterday that Egger was responsible for the provision of a services diagram that included the location of underground electric cables. It was also responsible for keeping it updated.
However, it failed to update the diagram following the construction of the substation and rerouting of the electric cables. Consequently NCS was not provided with up-to-date information regarding the location of the cables.
The court heard that although it was the duty of Egger to provide NCS with appropriate information regarding the location of electric cables, the contractors equally 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Instead, they accepted the out-of-date services diagram, even though they knew there had been changes made in the area to be excavated.
“Fortunately nobody was hurt in this incident. However, the potential for serious, even fatal, injuries was foreseeable,” said HSE inspector Andrea Robbins after the case.
“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.
Egger (UK) Ltd, of Hexham in Northumberland, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £578.90 costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulation 22(1)(a) of the CDM regulations.
Chester-le-Street-based NCS was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £761.60 costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulation 13(2) of CDM.
“The construction industry needs to be more aware of the dangers of working in the vicinity of live underground services,” Robbins added. “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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