Sentence for Fatal Electrocution Case

Friday, November 25, 2016


Background
• A company was prosecuted after a worker was killed during asbestos removal work at a Welsh High School.

Case Details
• Newport Magistrates Court heard how the 26-year-old father from Gwent had accessed a ceiling void at Cwmcarn High School on 19 July 2013 to create an enclosure to contain asbestos during its removal.
• While he was cutting plastic sheeting, he cut into a live electric cable and was electrocuted.

Breach
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Caswell Environmental Services Ltd had not taken adequate steps to ensure that the electrical supply at the school was isolated before the work was undertaken.

Sentence
• Caswell Environmental Services Ltd of Lynton House, Tavistock Square, London were found guilty of breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974.
• In sentencing, the Judge considered the fact that the company was now in liquidation and delivered a total nominal fine of £10,000, with £1,000 in costs.

NB/ It is important to note that as the company was in liquidation, clearly the fine does not reflect the risk, seriousness or the breach in this case.

HSE General Guidance regarding working with Electricity Working Near Electricity

The HSE’s Guidance in this area emphasizes that dutyholders may not see electrical wires near where work is planned, but they nonetheless may well be present.

A Useful Checklist for Electricity Safety:

1. Before drilling or starting to cut into surfaces: look for electrical wires and any other hazards such as asbestos.
2. Remember to look on both sides of walls; Ask to see plans of the electrical installation, and use these to find electrical wiring
3. If you are competent, use a suitable cable detector, or get a competent person to do it for you. NB/ Remember that some cable detectors won’t find a wire carrying a small current – consult the user guide.
4. Look for nearby electrical equipment or installations and find where the wiring runs to these.
5. Use equipment that will minimise the risks during the work.
6. Wear suitable protective clothing.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: If you are in doubt, STOP WORK and consult a competent person.

Competence
Make sure that people who are working with electricity are competent to do the job. The HSE assert that…. ”even simple tasks such as wiring a plug can lead to danger – ensure that people know what they are doing before they start”.

FINALLY……

Dutyholders must not allow work on or near exposed, live parts of equipment unless it is absolutely unavoidable and suitable precautions have been taken to prevent injury, both to the workers and to anyone else who may be in the area.

Lessons Learned
• Unfortunately in this case, the HSE established that there was no planning prior to the work being carried out to ensure that workers were exposed to live wires within the building.
• Clearly in this case, dutyholders had failed to consult with the electrical installations plan which is always as a rule of thumb a good starting point for identifying the presence of all wires in a building prior to its refurbishment.
• When the refurbishment or maintenance work is being carried out in older buildings that do not have an electrical installations plan, the next stage is to ensure that a competent worker uses a cable detector to identify the existence of electrical cabling to ensure that any potential live wires can be safely dealt with.

Safety Smart Comment:
• The Deceased’s death is a terrible tragedy, given that he should not have been asked to work in an area, performing this task, where there were live electrical cables.
• Prior to the work being carried out, the company should have conducted a thorough examination to ensure a proper assessment of risk of the premises had taken place to identify that all electricity cables in the building had been isolated prior to the work being commenced.
• This case will hopefully act as a salutary lesson to all that health and safety is far from a tick box exercise on construction sites.
Safety Smart are sadly aware of numerous serious and fatal accidents where workers have been electrocuted due to jobs being inadequately planned and work rushed to comply with client’s expectations.
• It is essential that when drawing up a programme of works, adequate time is given to the planning stage to ensure that all buildings have been thoroughly reviewed and any potential risks considered and properly managed.

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