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Council fined £35k after employee death

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning organisations to ensure employees are properly trained to use equipment, following an incident which lead to the death of a 29-year-old council worker.


The alert was issued after Dacorum Borough Council was fined £37,500, with £17,500 costs, at St Albans Magistrates Court earlier this week after pleading guilty to breaches of Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Regulation 3(1) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.


In November 2006, Ben Richardson, who worked for Dacorum Borough Council as part of the housing repair team, was called out to aid council plumbers working to fix a burst water main. He clamped an electric cable thinking it was a domestic water main.


The house, built in the 1960s,  had a mains water pipe and electricity supply cable which were both of similar size and colour, making them hard to distinguish. The cable ruptured, sending a massive current through his body.


The HSE investigation identified that the system of work used to detect the water supply did not involve the use a cable avoidance tool (CAT) to safely detect electric current and avoid the electricity supply to the house.


Mr Richardson's workmate said they had been shown how to use a CAT during '20 or 30 minutes' as part of a training course in 1998, but they had never achieved competence in its use.


HSE inspector Trevor Morrow said: 'The CAT is a sophisticated piece of equipment. You won't learn to use it competently during 20 to 30 minutes on a training course, but you will with regular use and experience.


'The CAT they were trained on was a different model to the one that was kept at Dacorum Borough Council, so they would have had to be trained again. If it had been available as part of their normal excavation work and they had been competent in its use, then the CAT would have prevented this fatality.'