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Video: Electrical explosion that left workers with severe burns sees firms fined £90k

Two construction firms have been fined £90,000 after two workers suffered serious burns when they cut into a live electrical cable on a House of Lords site.

The incident in July 2013 left one of the workers scarred for life. Southwark Crown Court heard how one of the men hit the 11 kV cable with a jackhammer while removing old brickwork. The man, who was 22 at the time, suffered serious burns to his arms, legs, hands and face, and was hospitalised for almost a month.

His colleague, a 63-year-old man, received treatment for longer-term traumatic stress having suffered significant burns to his face and neck. He has been unable to work with drills or machines since the incident.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation found that main contractor Clive Graham Associates had failed to identify the risk from live cables that had been dug up at the Millbank site in central London.

The HSE also found that CGA failed to warn workers that the incident cable was live and failed to adequately manage the site and the subcontractor, Bellmoor Construction, which employed the two workers.

Both firms were fined £45,000 after pleading guilty to breaches of different sections of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The investigation further found that Bellmoor also failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment before the work started; failed to provide effective supervision during the work; and failed to check competence before allocating tasks, including the operation of the jackhammer.

HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers said: “This serious incident should be a warning to the industry about the need to identify the risks to workers’ safety before work begins, so they can be protected.

“Employers have a duty to check workers have sufficient skills, knowledge, experience and training before they allow them to use equipment such as jackhammers on construction sites. A key point is to not assume a worker can use the equipment safely, just because they may have operated it previously.

“The ferocious explosion resulted in some serious injuries. This incident could easily have resulted in a fatality, and other employers should take this as a warning about the risks of working near electrical cables.”

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