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Safety Unhinged At Liverpool Firm Causes Electrical Shock

Electric plug
17th December 2013
Reports of firms prosecuted for significant accident claims due to the neglect of employee safety by allowing parts of moving machinery to remain unguarded are often in the news. Between February and March 2013, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that a quarter of the 400 specific construction industry workplaces sites they visited “unannounced” failed health and safety checks.

In a recent case concerning a Liverpool factory revealed that a vital piece of safety protection, which was no longer operative, had led to a 28 year old employee suffering a severe electric shock.

In the subsequent investigation by HSE, it was found the safety locking system at the entrance to a high-voltage testing area was no longer safe following the removal of one of the door hinges when it became damaged so the door could be more easily opened and shut each time.

As result of the door locking mechanism having been altered, the safety system was “read” as locked, allowing power to be supplied to the testing area despite the door still being physically open.

When one of the cables was handled by the employee in the area - used to test cables at voltages of up to 2,000 volts - current was being supplied at the time. The worker, who suffered a cardiac arrest, was resuscitated while in the ambulance en-route to hospital and also received serious burns to the arms and hands.

The cable manufacturing company admitted a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc,1974 for failing to ensure the safety of its employees was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £4,206 in costs.

A spokesman for the HSE said, "Workers shouldn’t have been able to gain access to the testing pen while electricity was being fed through the cables, but the safety system that prevents this from happening was overridden ... employees hadn’t been given any information or training on what to do if the testing pen became damaged...”

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 state that any electrical equipment with the potential to cause injury must be maintained in a safe condition.

According to the Electrical Safety Council, in July 2010, projected figures from an Ipsos MORI sample survey of 800 people, suggest that between 1.3 and 4 million adults could have received a mains voltage electric shock.

A May/June 2011 poll, also conducted by Ipsos as part of the Electrical Safety Council's 'Public Experience of Electric Shocks' survey, found a staggering 350,000 had sustained a serious injury.