Glasgow engineering firm in court after power line damaged

A Barrhead civil engineering contractor has been fined for serious safety failings after an overhead power line was brought down by a sub-contractor on a site in West Lothian.

Raymond Harper, a sub-contracted plant operator, had a narrow escape when the raised arms of his 20-tonne excavator hit the live power line as he drove up a slope on the Scottish Water site in Bathgate.

The contact sent an 11,000-volt current through the excavator, the overhead cable split and the live cable landed on the ground close by other workers. Had Mr Harper made any efforts to leave the vehicle, he could have sustained serious or even fatal injury. Luckily he remained in his cab.

The incident, on 25 June 2011, happened on a site under the control of engineering firm George Leslie Ltd, which was responsible for carrying out emergency ground works and repairs to water pipes.

George Leslie Ltd was prosecuted after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company should have done more to ensure that the risk of contact with the overhead power line to personnel working on the site, particularly visiting workers, had been adequately controlled.

Livingston Sheriff Court was told today (9 Dec) that Mr Harper had not been directed to the main site office where he would have received induction, and as a result he proceeded to operate on the site without having been made aware of any hazards, including the overhead power line.

The HSE investigation concluded that the company, as principal contractor, had:

  • failed to properly assess the risks to drivers on the site
  • failed to identify areas on site where vehicles could safely move, in particular when required to pass under live overhead electrical power cables
  • failed to provide and maintain machinery and safe systems of work
  • failed to isolate the overhead powerline, erect sufficient barriers  or display warning notices providing cross bar clearance heights and directions to drivers
  • failed to ensure that any vehicle needing to pass under live power lines had  height restrictors fitted to any  parts that could be elevated
  • failed to ensure that workers visiting the site were provided with adequate instruction and supervision to ensure that they completed a site induction programme and were made aware of the presence of live overhead cables

The court was told that the company had previously been fined £25,000 after a prosecution in Feb 2004 relating to an incident where an employee was killed after falling from height.

George Leslie Ltd, of Barrhead, Glasgow, was fined £6,600 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Ritchie McCrae, said:

“This incident was entirely preventable and could easily have resulted in serious or fatal injuries. 

“George Leslie Ltd was the principal contractor on site and, as such, had a duty of care to ensure the safety of all workers on site, including the sub-contrators. Regardless of the circumstances, there is no excuse for the inadequate level of planning and control which should have eliminated or controlled the risk of contact with an overhead power line and allowed the work to be completed safely.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. Sections 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 state: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

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