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Contractors fined £1m after cable strike

12 Apr Two companies that really ought to know better have been handed fines totalling more than £1m after a cable strike caused an explosion that blistered an operative’s retina.

Siemens Energy was fined £900,000 and VolkerInfra £180,000.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how VolkerInfra Ltd, a specialist high voltage cabling contractor, had been subcontracted by principal contractor Siemens Energy to carry out cabling works as part of a wider construction project at Whitegate substation in Chadderton, Manchester.

On the 17th September 2019, an employee of VolkerInfra, who was excavating phases for laying a 275kV cable, struck a live cable with the excavator. The contact resulted in multiple explosions, which caused blistering to the driver’s retina.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the permit to dig had not been properly completed by Siemens Energy. It was also found that neither Siemens nor VolkerInfra had checked the cable markings before starting work . The existing live cable had not been adequately identified and so the markings for the cable location were incorrect by around 50cm.  It was also found there had been inadequate monitoring and supervision of work.

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Siemens Energy Ltd of Faraday House, Sir William Siemens Square, Camberley, Surrey pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 and Section 3 (1) Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £900,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,327.52.

Volkerinfra Ltd of Hertford House, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 3 (1) Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £180,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,430.72.

HSE inspector Rebecca Vaudrey said after the hearing: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.”

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