Safety failings cost two contractors over £1 million in fines after a workman’s eye was damaged in an electricity explosion.
High voltage cabling contactor VolkerInfra was appointed by Siemens Energy to undertake cabling work at an electricity substation near Manchester. An excavation driver employed by VolkerInfra was digging to lay a new electricity cable when he struck an existing live cable. There were multiple explosions which resulted in the driver’s retina being blistered.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the permit to dig had not been completed properly, nor had the cable markings been properly checked before work commenced. As a result, the live cable was incorrectly marked. The HSE fined Siemens Energy £900,000 and VolkerInfra £180,000 – both parties also had to pay costs.
HSE Inspector Rebecca Vaudrey said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.”
James Burgoyne of Brunel Professions warned: “Fines issued by the HSE and other regulatory bodies are not covered by liability insurances such as public liability or professional indemnity, as indemnifying penalties intended to have a deterrent effect would be contrary to public policy. As such, firms have to cover the cost of fines from their own resources. Insurers are likely to take firms’ safety records into account in their underwriting as indicative of their working practices – so a poor safety record could not only mean a construction professional having to pay the fines but might also mean more expensive insurance cover as well.”