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Fri February 26 2021

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Operator survives power line contact

10 Dec 14 A Scottish plant operator had a narrow escape when the raised boom of his excavator brought down a live overhead power line on a site in West Lothian.

Yesterday (9th December) the civil engineering contractor was fined £6,600 for serious safety failings that led to the incident.

Raymond Harper, a subcontracted plant operator, hit the live power line as he drove his 20-tonne excavator up a slope on a Scottish Water site in Bathgate.

The contact sent an 11,000-volt current through the excavator, the overhead cable split and the live cable landed on the ground close by other workers. Had Mr Harper attempted to leave the vehicle, he could have sustained serious or even fatal injury. Luckily he stayed in the cab.

The incident, on 25th June 2011, happened on a site under the control of engineering firm George Leslie Ltd, which was responsible for carrying out emergency ground works and repairs to water pipes.

George Leslie Ltd was prosecuted after a Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company should have done more to ensure that the risk of contact with the overhead power line to personnel working on the site, particularly visiting workers, had been adequately controlled.

Livingston Sheriff Court was told that Mr Harper had not been directed to the main site office where he would have received induction, and as a result he proceeded to operate on the site without having been made aware of any hazards, including the overhead power line.

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The HSE investigation concluded that the company, as principal contractor, had:

  • failed to properly assess the risks to drivers on the site
  • failed to identify areas on site where vehicles could safely move, in particular when required to pass under live overhead electrical power cables
  • failed to provide and maintain machinery and safe systems of work
  • failed to isolate the overhead powerline, erect barriers  or display warning notices providing crossbar clearance heights and directions to drivers
  • failed to ensure that any vehicle needing to pass under live power lines had  height restrictors fitted to any  parts that could be elevated
  • failed to ensure that workers visiting the site were provided with adequate instruction and supervision to ensure that they completed a site induction programme and were made aware of the presence of live overhead cables.

George Leslie Ltd, of Barrhead, Glasgow, was fined £6,600 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The court was told that George Leslie Ltd had previously been fined £25,000 in 2004 after an employee was killed falling from height.

HSE inspector Ritchie McCrae said after the case: “This incident was entirely preventable and could easily have resulted in serious or fatal injuries.

“George Leslie Ltd was the principal contractor on site and, as such, had a duty of care to ensure the safety of all workers on site, including the subcontrators. Regardless of the circumstances, there is no excuse for the inadequate level of planning and control which should have eliminated or controlled the risk of contact with an overhead power line and allowed the work to be completed safely.”

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