Workers hurt after striking electrical cable

A council in Scotland has been fined £35,000 for an industrial accident in which two workers suffered flash burns when they struck an electrical cable while digging a ditch.

South Lanarkshire Council was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after Anthony Zambonini, 59, suffered burns to his arms and face, and David Leven, 33, was blown off his feet and sustained an eye injury.

Accident ‘could have been worse’

Hamilton Sheriff Court heard how the two men were digging the ditch prior to laying a drainpipe at a site in East Kilbride in July 2009 when Mr Zambonini thought he had struck some rock.

He picked up a steel bar to try to break up the ground, unaware he was hitting an 11,000 volt live electrical cable. In doing so, the cable would have been earthed, reducing this to 6,350 volts.

Mr Zambonini, from Hamilton, suffered an electric shock and was only saved from a more serious injury by his insulated gloves. He needed regular treatment in a specialist burns unit for several weeks and was off work for four months.

His colleague Mr Leven, from East Kilbride, sustained a flash burn to his left eye but has since made a full recovery.

Drawings not obtained

HSE found the accident was the result of a combination of inadequate risk assessment, lack of a safe system of work and failure to provide adequate information, instruction, supervision and training.

The council had a safe system of work document but failed to obtain drawings that showed three buried cables crossed the route of the trench, two of which were high voltage.

South Lanarkshire Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Source: Health and Safety Executive

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