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Firms face £180k pay out after demolition worker engulfed in fireball

Two companies have been hit with fines and costs of more than £180,000 after a demolition worker was engulfed in flames when he cut through a live 11,000 volt cable at an electricity substation in Worcester.

Birmingham based DSM Demolition was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £100,000 and Gould Singleton Architects was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,000.

The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted the companies following the incident on 14 July 2006.

Worcester Crown Court heard that DSM was demolishing a metal casting foundry in Wainwright Road, Worcester, when employee Lee Harris, 35, was told to cut through a cable, which was connected to a switching unit on a substation on the site, which was still live.

As the machine he was using to cut through the cable came into contact with the live conductors, he was engulfed by flames, suffering 20 per cent burns, which have left him with permanent disabilities and requiring skin grafts.

HSE’s investigation into the incident found that neither planning supervisor GSA nor demolition contractor DSM had made adequate checks to ensure that the electricity on the site had been disconnected.

GSA had told DSM that all services to the site had been terminated when actually the power supply remained live. DSM should have ensured that the electrical services had been disconnected before starting demolition, but failed to do so.

HSE inspector Tariq Khan said:  “Live electricity and gas services pose a serious risk of death or serious injury to demolition workers. It is essential that companies working in this sector take proper precautions to protect their workers.

“Neither of the two companies prosecuted today had made adequate checks to ensure that the power supply to the cable required to be cut by Mr Harris had been terminated. Had they done so then this incident would never have happened and Mr Harris would not have suffered such serious injuries.

“Construction, design and management co-ordinators must ensure that the information they pass on to contractors which could affect the safety of their workers is correct. Likewise, demolition contractors must follow safe systems of work at all times and ensure they check information provided to them about services on site with independent, competent sources.”

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