The Health and Safety Executive has announced successful prosecution following an incident where severe burns were suffered by a contractor replacing a fence as part of the refurbishment of the car park.
The installation of metal fencing around the perimeter of a car park may seem too small a project to bother about an Underground Utility Survey but this incident highlights that every project which requires breaking of the ground needs to address Underground Dangers as a matter of priority.
This project required the worker to dig holes in the ground to insert the base of each fence post and while using a ground breaker, pierced through one of two 11kV cables buried just 0.8m underground.
This caused a short circuit that released at least one million watts of energy.
This, in turn, vaporised the breaker’s tip in a cloud of flame and molten metal.
As a result the worker suffered severe burns of varying depths to his arms, face and neck and was lucky not to breathe in the molten metal, fumes and poisons.
An Underground Utility Mapping Survey should have been carried out to search for and locate these as well as any other services and the information should have alerted the design team in relation to these dangers.
The photograph above comes from an Underground Utility Mapping Survey that GEOTEC Surveys have recently completed and shows red paint highlighting the location of an electric cable in a similar scenario to this.
GEOTEC Surveys produce accurate drawings, from this collected data, in plan view, as an AutoCAD/ PDF as part of their Underground Utility Mapping outputs, providing proof or evidence to anyone breaking the ground on a given site as to what may or may not be there, rather than relying on the main contractors word, as was the case in this scenario.
In addition, the client was prosecuted as it had failed in its duty to pass on relevant information to those carrying out construction work, under CDM Regulations.
This case in particular highlights that it is the client’s ultimate responsibility to ensure all available information is provided.
Time and time again we see this responsibility filter down to the contractor themselves, but if you are unsure then it is YOUR responsibility get Underground Utility Mapping carried out, regardless of size or value of project.
The HSE indicated that seven people died as a result of contact with electricity or electrical discharge in the workplace in Great Britain in 2010/11 and 88 suffered a major injury – so this problem has not disappeared, regardless of how little we hear about these incidents.
More information about this story is available from the HSE Website