Combined Fine of £160K for Companies after Worker is Seriously Burned

Two companies have been prosecuted after a worker received significant burn injuries during a work activity. The demolition worker was with a colleague in a switchgear room, tasked with removing electrical distribution equipment from the area.

The worker had been informed by the principal contractor on site that the equipment had been isolated. He threw a crowbar at the equipment to show his colleague that this was so. The item touched exposed live wires and a flashover occurred, followed by a fire. The worker was hospitalised straight away with serious burn injuries. Russell Haigh and Stuart Haigh (Partners of R B Haighs & Sons) were fined £80,000, as was the principal contractor, AJ Wadhams & Co Limited (trading as Wadham Homes).

Read on to find out more about what happened, and to get some of our top tips on making sure that health and safety procedures are followed correctly by your workers.

Combined Fine of £160K for Companies after Worker is Seriously Burned

The accident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Inspectors found that the principal contractor had failed to follow the procedures detailed in their risk assessments and method statements, as it had been determined that all electrical equipment must be treated as live unless proven otherwise in the form of written documentation. It was also established that the work activity had not been planned properly, nor control measures implemented to ensure the power supply was isolated before work started.

5 tips to help ensure health and safety procedures are followed correctly by your workers:

  1. Do a risk assessment to determine what the hazards are in relation to the work activity. Be sure to identify what controls are needed to either remove or reduce the risk of harm. Provide these control measures before work starts, for example the provision of guarding, barriers or permits to work.
  2. Make your documentation (such as risk assessments and method statements) easy to understand. Keep them succinct and easy to follow, and ensure they are shared with all workers, contractors and sub-contractors as appropriate.
  3. Check that workers know what the hazards are, how to control them and what the work activity entails by verbally running through the task beforehand. Check that they know to follow any method statements step-by-step, and in the order specified.
  4. Supervise the work activity to check that the correct methods of working are being implemented. Stop work if it is apparent that the controls are not being used, or that work has deviated from the plan.
  5. Make sure workers know to check that all requirements of the work plan have been covered before starting work, such as obtaining written authorisation of electrical isolation.

Serious accidents can occur when the right controls are not followed, especially in high risk work. As the above case shows, it is not enough to just have the right procedures written down – they must also be understood and followed by workers to be effective.