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Firm fined after electrician suffers burns

22 November 2013

A Tayside electrical company has been fined for safety failings after a worker suffered burns to his face, hands and arms while carrying out live electrical testing.

Gordon Roberts, then aged 38, from Dundee, spent nine days in hospital following the incident on 2 December 2010.

His employer, McGill Electrical Ltd, was prosecuted today (22 Nov) after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

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 had climbed a stepladder to remove bolted covers to gain access to the live conductors he was there to test. However, on manoeuvring one of the bolted covers back into 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 manufacturing firm’s safety manager used snow that happened to be surrounding the substation in an attempt 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.

The HSE investigation concluded that McGill Electrical Ltd had 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, and had 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.”

For more information about safe electrical testing and inspection visit:

Notes to Editors:

  1. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation.
  2. Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

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