Two companies, a director, and a sub-contractor have been fined a total of £130,000 following an incident in which a construction worker suffered serious burns from an overhead power line.
Luton Crown Court heard that the incident happened during the construction of two poultry units at Sunny Farm in Swineshead, Bedfordshire, on 25 June 2009. Farm owner C & P Bird Brothers Ltd contracted Morspan Construction Ltd to carry out the work.
Morspan sub-contracted Michael Skayman to erect the steel framework for both buildings, which were within 4.3 metres of an overhead power line. Self-employed steel erector, Mark Rushbrook, 24, was contracted to clad out the gable end of the steel framework. In order to carry out the work he accessed a scissor lift, which was then operated by Skayman. As the lift was raised to the height of the roof, it came into contact with the overhead cable and Mr Rushbrook suffered an 11kv electric shock. He sustained burns to his stomach and hands, and internal muscle damage.
HSE inspector, John Berezansky, told SHP that the farm owner, its director Peter Bird, as well as Morspan Construction and Michael Skayman, had all failed to identify the potential risks of working near overhead power cables, or put suitable precautions in place. They had also failed to notify the HSE about the project’s design under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
A Prohibition Notice was issued to all parties on 29 June 2009, requiring work to stop until suitable precautions were in place to protect workers.
Inspector Berezansky said: “As construction work is a high-risk activity with significant numbers of major and fatal injuries, good planning, communication and cooperation are needed constantly. Unfortunately, all the defendants in this case failed to achieve this.
“That Mr Rushbrook’s injuries were not fatal is only a matter of luck. A lax attitude to health and safety is not acceptable, especially when so many incidents are completely avoidable by taking common sense actions and precautions. The safety standards for working near overhead power lines are well-known and readily available.”
C & P Bird Brothers appeared in court on 27 May and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg. 21(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, for failing as the CDM coordinator to notify the HSE about the designs of the project. It was fined £20,000 for each offence and ordered to pay £5500 in costs.
Peter Bird, a director of C & P Bird Brothers, admitted breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £5000 with £2500 costs.
Morspan Construction Ltd, the company which designed and manufactured the steel framework, also admitted breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It also pleaded guilty to reg. 19(1)(c) of the CDM Regulations 2007, for carrying out construction work despite no notice of the project being submitted to the HSE. It was fined £30,000 for each offence, plus £5250 in costs.
Michael Skayman admitted breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £4750 towards costs.
In mitigation, each defendant expressed remorse for their part in the incident and told the court that the work was completed safely after it was arranged for the power lines to be buried underground.
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