11kV Overhead Cable Shock Leads to Crane Operator’s Long Term Memory Loss

Sub-contractor Lee Burge suffered an electric shock when the crane he was using to lift a steel section came into contact with 11kV overhead power lines at Trowbridge Rugby Club on 20 March 2013, Swindon Crown Court heard last Wednesday.

He suffered an electric shock and cardiac arrest and was airlifted by helicopter to hospital and resuscitated, but now suffers from long term memory loss.

Ashford Homes (South Western) Ltd was building a new clubhouse and play area and an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) established that the company had been warned by the electricity company about the presence of overhead power cables, and had received advice on the removal of the power supplies running across the site.

However, no measures were put in place by the company to prevent plant and equipment accessing the area beneath the power lines, or for the power supply to be diverted or isolated. The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,159 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 34(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

Speaking after sentencing HSE inspector Ian Whittles, said: “Work near overhead power lines should be carefully planned and managed so that risks from contact or close proximity to the lines are adequately controlled. Ashford Homes failed to do this, and had been operating a range of machinery capable of coming close to the lines before Mr Burge was seriously injured.

“Luckily Mr Burge was resuscitated, but he now suffers from life changing complications due the electric shock he received. He was extremely close to losing his life and this is down to the failure of the construction company to adopt a safe system of work.

“This terrible incident could have been avoided had the company placed physical barriers on site so that no plant or equipment could gain access to either side and directly below the overhead power lines, or if the high voltage cables were diverted or isolated.”

Regulation 34(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states that: “Where there is a risk from electric power cables (a) they shall be directed away from the area of risk; or (b) the power shall be isolated and, where necessary, earthed; or (c) if it is not reasonably practicable to comply with paragraph (a) or (b), 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.”

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