One of the greatest enemies to workplace safety especially on construction sites is a lack of communication or ineffective communication.
Communication particularly relating to safety is a matter of life and death on construction sites which is why employers need to ensure that communication is taking place about the important issues and that this communication is being understood by workers. It is also vital that all the risks have been identified, assessed and dealt with beforehand to avoid workers paying the price.
An accident on a British construction site which resulted in the injury of worker was caused by incorrect information being given to the worker which led to him cutting a cable which was live with his angle grinder. Had it been communicated to the worker that the cable was still live, the accident could have been avoided.
The company responsible have been prosecuted by Liverpool authorities. The following excerpt from a post on PPConstructionSafety.com explains more about what happened:
Vermont Capitol Ltd has been prosecuted after a labourer cut through a mains electricity cable after 22-year-old was told the supply had been disconnected.
He was thrown across a basement when his angle grinder made contact with the live wires on a Liverpool building in August 2013.
Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard (23 October 2014) the company was clearing the site prior to construction of student flats at the end of a row of Grade-II-listed Regency terraced houses.
The end terrace had been partially demolished after becoming structurally unsound, leaving the façade and basement on the building site.
The court was told the workman was instructed to remove old pipes and cables from the cellar. The mains supply was not disconnected contrary to information provided to the site manager.
The writer also highlights that there was a flash as the workman cut into the cable and he suffered injuries to his elbow and shoulder. The man was thrown across the room and lucky for him, his protective clothing prevented him from suffering burns or being more seriously injured.
Although this company seemed compliant in other areas, such as providing adequate PPE to workers, they failed to ensure the worker was aware that cable was live and was actually instructed by his supervisor to cut into the cable.
The charges against the company are as follows and highlight that written confirmation is necessary when energy work is concerned:
Vermont Capitol Ltd, of Liverpool, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £980 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Regulation 34(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 which states: “where necessary to prevent danger, energy distribution installations shall be suitably located, checked and clearly indicated.”
Following the incident a health and safety inspector, Chris Hatton was quoted as saying that the young worker was lucky to be alive, let alone to receive such minor injuries. The electric shock he suffered could have also been much worse as it came from a mains cable which was probably carrying at least 240 volts of power.
The worker was also placed in direct risk of losing his life because the team on the site had been told all of the utilities entering the site had been disconnected and so the worker had no way of knowing he was actually cutting into a live electricity cable.
It is important that builders and developers get written confirmation that supplies have been disconnected before undertaking work with gas pipes and electricity cables.