What happens when cranes and other equipment make contact with live overhead electric cables?
A contractor has been fined after failing to act on a warning concerning an overhead electric cable which led to the electrocution of a crane operator.
The British contractor Ashford Homes (South Western) Ltd was prosecuted after a crane operator suffered an electric shock when the equipment he was using came into contact with overhead power lines at a site in March 2013.
The court heard that the crane was being used to move sections of steel where a new clubhouse and play area were being built. The crane operator, Lee Burge was lifting a section of steel with the crane when the hook block apparently came into contact with an 11kV live power line. The man suffered an electric shock and had to be resuscitated. The operator also sustained long term memory loss as a result of the electrocution.
What made this incident so frustrating is that the company (Ashford Homes) had been warned by the supply company about the presence of the power lines yet they failed to do anything to protect the crane operator. They had also received advice on the removal of the power supplies running across the site yet no measures were implemented to prevent plant and equipment accessing the area below the power lines. They could have arranged for the power supply to be diverted or isolated which they also failed to do.
Inspectors from the health and safety executive said that the risk was avoidable, the company simply had to utilise physical barriers.
This incident is a reminder of the importance of a safety plan whenever working near power lines, either overhead lines or underground ones.
As if crane operation is not high risk enough, when you add in the presence of overhead power lines, the risks are increased and need to be addressed. Ashford Homes like so many companies even in Oz failed to address the risks associated with work near the live power cables such as introducing barriers or isolating the power.
Speaking after the hearing, Inspector Ian Whitt les explained:
“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 hive voltage cables were diverted or isolated.”