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Contractor’s safety failings led to employee’s life-changing injuries

Date:
27 November 2014

A Melksham construction company has been prosecuted after a crane operator suffered an electric shock when the equipment he was using came into contact with overhead power lines.

Sub-contractor Lee Burge 38, who lives near Bristol, was using the crane to move sections of steel at Trowbridge Rugby Club on 20 March 2013, where a new clubhouse and play area were being built by Ashford Homes (South Western) Ltd.

Swindon Crown Court heard today (26 November) that as Mr Burge started to lift a section of steel using the crane, the hook block came into contact with an 11kV power line and he suffered an electric shock. Mr Burge was resuscitated but now suffers from long term memory loss.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) established that Ashford Homes had been warned by the electricity company about the presence of overhead power cables, and had received advice on the removal of the power supplies running across the site. However, no measures were put in place by the company to prevent plant and equipment accessing the area beneath the power lines or for the power supply to be diverted or isolated.

Ashford Homes (South Western) Ltd of Merlin Way, Bower Hill, Melksham, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,159 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 34(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

Speaking after sentencing HSE inspector Ian Whittles, said:

“Work near overhead power lines should be carefully planned and managed so that risks from contact or close proximity to the lines are adequately controlled. Ashford Homes failed to do this, and had been operating a range of machinery capable of coming close to the lines before Mr Burge was seriously injured.

“Luckily Mr Burge was resuscitated, but he now suffers from life changing complications due the electric shock he received. He was extremely close to losing his life and this is down to the failure of the construction company to adopt a safe system of work.

“This terrible incident could have been avoided had the company placed physical barriers on site so that no plant or equipment could gain access to either side and directly below the overhead power lines, or if the hive voltage cables were diverted or isolated.”

Information on construction site safety and working near power lines is available on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction and http://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/information/overhead.htm

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Regulation 34(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states that: “Where there is a risk from electric power cables (a) they shall be directed away from the area of risk; or (b) the power shall be isolated and, where necessary, earthed; or (c) if it is not reasonably practicable to comply with paragraph (a) or (b), suitable warning notices and (i) barriers suitable for excluding work equipment which is not needed, or (ii) where vehicles need to pass beneath the cables, suspended protections, or (iii) in either case, measures providing an equivalent level of safety shall be provided or (in the case of measures) taken.”
  3. HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk

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