Agency worker suffers electric shock at children’s play area
A council-owned company failed to warn an agency worker about the presence of underground power cables before he installed a fence at a play area in Swindon.
Swindon Commercial Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Swindon Borough Council, was contracted to install a temporary fence at the Shaw Ridge Play Park as part of a renovation project.
On 23 April 2010, an agency worker, who had worked for the company for a number of years, began hitting metal road pins into soft ground in order to secure the temporary fencing. One of the pins he was holding made contact with an 11,000-volt underground electric cable, which was 700mm below the surface, and he suffered burns to his hands and chest.
The HSE’s investigation discovered he hadn’t been given any warning that underground cables were present, and was not provided with avoidance tools to locate and mark underground services.
HSE inspector Stephan Axt-Simmonds explained the company had failed to carry out a risk assessment before starting the work. He said: “This was an incident that could have easily been avoided, had the company undertaken the correct planning procedures and provided the right equipment to ensure that they knew the location of any underground utility services, before allowing workers to penetrate the ground with metal equipment.”
Swindon Commercial Services appeared at Swindon Magistrates’ Court on 2 July and pleaded guilty to breaching s34(3) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, for failing to take steps to prevent the disturbance of underground services. It was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £4403 in costs.
In mitigation, the company said this was an isolated incident and it had fully cooperated with the investigation. It has subsequently created a code of practice for ground intrusion work and workers have received training in scanning for underground cables.
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