Head Of Training, SHP Online

November 27, 2014

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Case highlights the dangers of working near power lines

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. The worker was resuscitated but now suffers from long term memory loss.

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 on 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.

An investigation by 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 high voltage cables were diverted or isolated.”

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