An accident which took place on a site in the English suburb of Cottesmore highlights the importance of taking the necessary precautions when working near overhead power lines. The company involved was warned by their QS that there was a lack of suitable precautions regarding work near overhead power lines yet failed to make the necessary changes.
The company involved, Hazelton Homes (Midlands) Ltd has been fined after a tipper lorry struck the overhead power lines causing a power cut to the homes in the area.
The court found that the company failed to ensure that suitable warning signs for vehicles and “suspended protections” were provided.
What made the accident even worse is that the company was warned beforehand about the risk yet failed to take the necessary steps to guard against them.
This excerpt was taken from a post on PPConstructionSafety.com
The court also heard that shortly before the incident the company quantity surveyor warned about the dangers of overhead power lines and the need for barriers and warning signs. Action was taken after the incident yet when HSE revisited the project in November 2012 suitable precautions were again absent.
Remedial steps taken but not maintained in place
Hazelton Homes (Midlands) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 34(2) (c) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £8,000 with costs of £4,214.
CDM 2007 Regulation 34(2)(c) states: “Where there is a risk from electric power cables, suitable warning notices and (i) barriers suitable for excluding work equipment which is not needed, or (ii) where vehicles need to pass beneath the cables, suspended protections, or (iii) in either case, measures providing an equivalent level of safety, shall be provided or (in the case of measures) taken.
The most concerning part about most construction accidents is that they are preventable and normally arise because of a lack of safety measures or mistakes.
Employers who fail to assess and manage the risks to safety associated with overhead power lines also run the risk of accidents such as this one or even worse, accidents where people are electrocuted and killed.
This incident also highlights the importance of on-going training and supervision of staff. Just developing the necessary safety plans is not enough. Staff needs to be trained on these control measures and supervised to ensure that they are sticking to their training. Workers also need refresher courses to ensure they remember everything regarding safety on site because certain control measures are easy to forget especially when they are being practiced on a daily basis.
Overhead as well as buried power lines at a building site are particularly dangerous because an extremely high voltage runs through them. Burns and even death can result and when combined with tools and equipment coming into contact with power lines, the risk is increased.
The employees involved in the accident above are actually extremely lucky to be alive, but every year a number of workers die due to electrocution. This accident could have been avoided by simply looking for and identifying overhead power lines beforehand and posting warning signs.
It is also important the employees always assume that over-head power lines are energized until it is clearly determined that it is not. Workers should use non-conductive wood or fiberglass ladders when working near power lines rather than metal ladders.