Contractor’s breach created electrocution risk21 August 2012
A refrigeration and air-conditioning company left an electrical system in a dangerous condition, thereby exposing workers to the risk of an electric shock, or electrocution.
Coolcheck Refrigeration Ltd was contracted to disconnect a refrigerated counter unit during the refurbishment of an industrial premises in Bishop Auckland, Durham.
In July last year, an employee of Coolcheck Refrigeration disconnected the unit and placed electrical tape over the top of a miniature circuit breaker to indicate it should remain isolated. He also bound one end of the disconnected cable, which was still attached to a junction box on the floor. However after the worker had left the site, the copper conducting wires inside the unattached end of the cable became exposed.
On 3 August 2011, an electrician moved the cable to carry out some work. As he did so, the copper wires touched the wall where the circuit breaker was positioned, causing an electrical short circuit. The incident was reported to the HSE.
A subsequent investigation by the Executive found that the Coolcheck Refrigeration employee was not qualified to carry out electrical work of this nature. The work had not been properly planned, which meant neither the junction box nor the circuit breaker had been isolated. HSE inspector Keith Partlington explained that the incident could easily have resulted in a serious injury, or fatality. He said: “The electrical supply to the cable was 240 volts and was capable of causing electric shock or electrocution. After any work on an electrical system, it should be left in a condition that prevents danger.
“The use of electrical tape to effect isolation of the switches on miniature circuit-breaker electrical systems is regarded as unsafe practice by the Electrical Safety Council, which warns against it in their guidance to the industry.”
Coolcheck Refrigeration appeared at Darlington Magistrates’ Court on 16 August and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.4(3) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1999. It was fined £7000 and ordered to pay £2500 in costs.
In mitigation, the company admitted it had underestimated the nature of the job involved and had sent the wrong person to carry out the work. It had no previous convictions and entered an early guilty plea.
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