A Dartford-based engineering firm has been prosecuted for safety failings after a teenage apprentice fell from a ladder as he received an electric shock from badly wired equipment. The incident was investigated by the HSE led to the prosecution of Kenard Engineering Company Ltd at Dartford Magistrates’ Court.
The apprentice engineer, just 17 at the time of the incident, fell nearly three metres to the floor as he recoiled from an instant bolt of electricity. Over the years, evidence has shown us that when working on electrical systems the choice of equipment for working at height should be carefully considered as injuries from falls from height can often be fatal.
In this case the apprentice suffered a herniated disc and numbness in his lower back, but has since returned to work.
Magistrates heard that the apprentice was helping a maintenance worker to move a pillar-mounted crane. When it was in place and the crane wired-up, he climbed a ladder to plug in CNC computer equipment to the cable tray socket.
When the apprentices hand touched the cable tray on top of the pillar, the tray ‘earthed’ him. At the same time, the pillar he was holding on to for balance became live as a wire had been connected wrongly into the earth.
HSE found that Kenard Engineering had failed to ensure their working systems were safe by allowing someone without the proper competence and experience to wire up the crane. Frustratingly it’s all too common that a lack of training or competence is found by the HSE in cases investigated. What makes it worse on this occasion was the firm had an electrical specialist moving and installing the CNC machines but it was customary for employees to move and wire in the cranes.
Kenard Engineering Company Ltd, of Dartford, Kent, was fined £10,000 and told to pay £1,981 in costs after admitting breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.
As the HSE inspector commented this was a needless injury to a young and inexperienced worker. It could have been avoided by Kenard Engineering by simply ensuring that electrical work, particularly three-phase electrics, was carried out by suitably qualified personnel.
It would have been interesting to see their risk assessment on this task wouldn’t it. Working with 3 phase electrics has the potential for a fatal injury. Putting such an inexperienced person on the task really does go against any advice we would provide to our clients and we hope this is the same in your business?