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Contractors fined after demolition worker badly burned in electrical fire

PUBLISHED: 15:17 01 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:17 01 May 2019

An investigation was carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)  Picture: HSE

An investigation was carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Picture: HSE

HSE

Two construction firms have been fined £160,000 after a worker received serious burns during demolition work in Essex.

The incident happened as a pair of demolition workers were removing electrical distribution equipment from a switchgear room.

Both were employed by sub-contractor R B Haigh & Sons to carry out work at the former Molecular Products site, which had been vacant since August 2013, in Thaxted, near Stansted.

One of the workers, Alan Banks, had been told by the principal contractor that the electrical equipment had been isolated.

Chelmsford Magistrates Court heard that, to reassure his colleague it was safe, Mr Banks threw a crowbar at the 400 volt alternating current equipment.

The crowbar came into contact with live exposed wires, causing a 'flashover' and temperatures of several thousand degrees, followed by a fire, which left Mr Banks in hospital with serious burn injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the task had not been properly planned and that suitable control measures were not implemented to ensure isolation of the power supply.

According to the HSE, principal contractor A J Wadhams & Co Ltd failed to follow clear procedures outlined in its risk assessments and method statements, which identified all equipment must be treated as live, unless written authorisation proved otherwise.

Russell Haigh and Stuart Haigh, partners of R B Haighs & Sons, of Thaxted, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

The company was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3882.65.

AJ Wadhams & Co Limited, trading as Wadham Homes, of Charterhouse Street, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The company was also fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3816.60.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Adam Hills said the incident, which happened on April 12, 2017, had a significant impact on Mr Banks' life and could have been fatal.

“Had the companies followed the control measures outlined in their respective risk assessments, then this incident would not have occurred,” he added.

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