Sheffield-based contractor JF Finnegan and one of its sub-contractors have been fined after an accident on a road project, where a high voltage shock ‘fried’ the mechanics of a tipper truck and endangered the lives of workers.
The 66,000 volt surge was caused when a tipper truck's flat bed was raised and touched overhead power cables on 5 December 2007.
JF Finnegan pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £17,500 and ordered to pay £2,126 costs at Doncaster Magistrates Court.
Saxby Surfacing Contractors, also from Sheffield, were sub-contracted by JF Finnegan and pleaded guilty to contravening regulation 34(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The firm was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £708 costs.
Both companies were involved in building a private road in Doncaster at First Point Business Park. During the work, a tipper wagon, which was in its raised position, touched a high voltage overhead cable. The 66,000 volt shock passed through the wagon, resulting in severe damage to the pneumatics and the hydraulics.
The court heard this was the third similar incident at the site, yet HSE inspectors found a lack of suitable signage warning of overhead danger or height restricting posts in operation.
After the hearing HSE Inspector Stephen Hargreaves said: "In this instance, had the driver of the tipper wagon left the vehicle when contact was made with the power line, it would almost certainly have proved fatal. Luckily he remained in the vehicle and he escaped without injury.
"But it wasn't only the driver who had been put at risk - anyone else standing in close proximity could also have been killed or seriously injured. Had there been appropriate signage in place, as well as height restricting goal posts this, incident could easily have been avoided."
The dangers of working on overhead power lines are well known within the construction industry and around a third of this type of incident results in a fatality. In 2007, nine people were killed and many more injured in the workplace due to contact with overhead power lines.
In total, around 1,000 electrical incidents at work are reported to HSE each year and about 25 people die of their injuries.