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Worker suffers burns after striking electricity cable

30 Apr 2024 | Technical News

A housing company has been fined over half a million pounds after an employee digging in the rear garden of a domestic property inadvertently struck an underground cable and suffered burns.

The incident occurred during January 2023, when a team had been tasked with digging holes in preparation for the installation of new fence posts. One of the operatives struck an underground electrical cable as he tried to break through some concrete using a breaker.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed the company in charge of the workers failed to provide them with information regarding the location of underground services such as electricity and gas, or provide suitable equipment to detect underground services.

The Association reported a similar case only a couple of years ago, when a groundworker sustained serious burns when the electric breaker he was using struck an 11kv electricity cable.   

See image below:

HSE image

The image above shows a situation which many landscape operatives face with on a regular basis: digging (relatively shallow) holes in unfamiliar areas of ground. 

Following a safe system of work would have avoided this situation.  A safe system in this instance consists of three elements:

1.       Planning the work

2.       Detecting, identifying and marking underground services

3.       Safe excavation/safe digging practices

Each of these steps are critical to ensure the safety of operatives breaking ground in any situation. 

Most underground electrical cables are laid in trenches between 450mm and 1m deep. However, the location of cables should never be assumed – as is shown in the picture above.

The Health and Safety Executive provides free, detailed guidance on good practice in relation to all aspects of digging.  See the further reading section, below. 

Further reading:

Health and Safety Executive document: Avoiding danger from underground services


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