Sentencing after Telford fireball incident

A company and its manager have been fined after two workers were engulfed in a fireball when they cut through a live 1,000 volt electrical cable at an industrial unit in Telford.

The two men had been told to find an underground water leak at an empty industrial unit owned by the company in Telford. They were instructed to dig at a spot outside the unit. Using an electrical drill, they drilled nearly 40cm into the ground until they hit a live 1,000 volt cable.

They were engulfed in a fireball and suffered burns to their hands, arms and faces. Both were airlifted to hospital and one of the men was so seriously injured that for the first few days, doctors believed he might not survive.

HSE's investigation into the incident found that the company had not assessed the risks involved, devised a safe system of work or obtained site plans of the area, checked whether there were any electrical cables underground or used safe digging methods. The two men had also received no training about the dangers arising from underground services.

The court also heard that in issuing instructions to the two men, the company manager had a duty to take reasonable care for their safety. Despite being aware of the guidance which details how to dig safely near underground services, he failed to ensure that proper precautions had been taken before telling them to start work.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £4,420 costs. The manager pleaded guilty to breaching Section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.

 

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