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Fit out firm fined after worker catches fire

Fit out contractor Pineview Interiors has been hit with nearly £15,000 in fines and costs after a worker suffered a massive electric shock and caught fire.

The injured man was working as a subcontractor on a major refurbishment project at Leonard Street, Islington on 30 April 2010, when he was hit by the 415 volt blast.

City of London Magistrates’ Court heard that the explosion was caused when a main electrical supply cable to the site was cut during its removal.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation revealed that Pineview failed to properly check whether the cable was still live.

The court heard how work had proceeded to remove the cable, assuming it was old and not live.

Standing on top of a step ladder, the worker hit the cable with a hammer and chisel before being blasted to the floor.

He told the court he recalled waking up with a colleague putting flames out from the top half of his body.

The worker was taken to hospital, suffering burns to around a third of his body.

He has had to have a skin graft from his legs to his body and arms.

It is expected to take up to two years for his skin to recover.

Pineview Interiors pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,183.

HSE Inspector Dominic Elliss said:  “Refurbishment works continue to contribute a high proportion of the serious and fatal injuries reported within the construction industry.

“The defendant company were aware that their works within 9-15 Leonard Street would require the removal of an electrical head. They were, or should have been, aware that this well labelled system remained live at the time that they instructed their employees to commence work in this location.

“They were made aware of the intention to remove this electrical head by their employees who held no electrical training or relevant experience. The defendant company then allowed these operatives to attempt to remove the live electrical system with nothing but the most cursory attempt at seeking confirmation that the system was in fact dead.

“As a direct result of the defendant’s failure to identify or control the risk of short circuit their employee suffered extensive burn injuries from the resulting explosion.”

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