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£160k fines after demolition worker burned

29 Apr 19 Two companies have been fined £80,000 each after a worker received serious electrical burns during demolition work.

Alan Banks was seriously burned by the flashover
Alan Banks was seriously burned by the flashover

Chelmsford Magistrates Court heard how on the 12th April 2017, two demolition workers employed by subcontractor R B Haigh & Sons were removing electrical distribution equipment from a switchgear room at the former Molecular Products site in Thaxted, Essex. Alan Banks had been told by the principal contractor that the electrical equipment had been isolated. To reassure his colleague that it was safe he threw a crowbar at the 400V ac equipment. It came into contact with live exposed wires, causing a flashover and temperatures of several thousand degrees, followed by a subsequent fire. As a result, Mr Banks suffered serious burn injuries and was immediately hospitalised.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the task being undertaken had not been properly planned and suitable control measures were not implemented to ensure the isolation of the power supply. The principal contractor, AJ Wadhams & Co, failed to follow the procedures outlined in its risk assessments and method statements, which stipulated that all equipment must be treated as live unless written authorisation proved otherwise.

Russell Haigh and Stuart Haigh, the partners of R B Haighs & Sons, of Thaxted, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. They were been fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,882.65.

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AJ Wadhams & Co Ltd, trading as Wadham Homes of Charterhouse Street, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 197. It was also fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,816.60.

HSE inspector Adam Hills said after the hearing: “This incident has had a significant impact on Mr Banks life and the injuries could so very easily have been fatal. Had the companies followed the control measures outlined in their respective risk assessments, then this incident would not have occurred. Never assume that an electrical supply is disconnected. Always check with the distribution network operator or a qualified electrician to obtain written proof of isolation before commencing work.”

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