Work accident news

Fireball on industrial site triggers £12k fine

A Birmingham property developer has been prosecuted after an industrial accident in which two employees suffered serious burns.

The two men were engulfed in a massive fireball when they cut through a live 1,000 volt electrical cable at an industrial unit in August 2010.

Telford Magistrates' Court was told the workplace accident occurred after they had been instructed to locate the source of an underground water leak.

The electric drill they used struck the wire at a depth of 40cm, triggering a fireball that was equivalent in power to 4.3 million watts of energy, the court heard.

The men were airlifted to hospital after suffering burns to their hands, arms and faces. One was burned so seriously that doctors thought he might not survive.

Work accident investigators from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the risks of on-site personal injury had not been properly assessed.

Plans of the unit were not checked beforehand to determine if there were electrical cables running underground, and the two workers received no training about the dangers of a hitting a live wire.

"Hitting a live electrical cable is a very real danger and can easily result in deaths or serious injuries," said an HSE spokesman.

"Companies must take measures to protect workers who are digging into the ground, where gas and electricity services may be found.

"They must obtain site plans from service providers, use a cable avoidance tool to scan and check what is actually under the surface, and ensure that workers are properly trained."

Bosses at the development firm pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The industrial accident landed the company fines of £12,000 and court costs of £5,420.


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