Last updated: 17.11.11

Health and safety failures 'highlight importance of e-learning'

A construction company that has been prosecuted for failing health and safety standards after a worker was left "permanently scarred" could use e-learning to improve its skills to prevent future accidents.

Kim Barker Construction faced charges over misconduct under the Health and Safety Act following the accident, during which a worker struck an underground cable when undertaking digging work.

Richard Baisley, 26, of Scunthorpe was left severely injured with burns to his hands, arms, face and chest, and was rushed to a nearby hospital for emergency treatment to the wounds.

He accidentally drilled through a 415 volt cable at the construction site, which immediately shocked him and caused the severe lacerations.

The location of the cable was not known by the employees and had not been established by the company's planning documents prior to the work taking place. Methods including e-learning could have been implemented by Kim Barker Construction to improve the planning of operations, to ensure that all health and safety checks were carried out before the digging started and to maintain the safety of all staff.

Scunthorpe Magistrates Court heard that Mr Baisley and a fellow employee were instructed to dig two holes outside the site entrance so they could erect a new company sign. During the digging of the holes where two steel poles were to be fitted, Mr Baisley became victim of the failed health and safety checks, resulting in an electrical explosion.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector John Dutton said: "Had the company followed industry guidance and best practice when this happened back in 2009, Mr Baisley would not be bearing the long-term scars of their failings today.

"It also highlights the need to make sure every job is planned, undertaken and supervised using trained workers and the right tools."

He added that there are vital lessons to be learned from this accident relevant to many companies. A firm should ensure that all areas of possible risk are assessed and that thorough reports are derived from such inspections.

The company was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay more than £3,000 in costs.

According to the HSE, a power as low as 50 volts applied between two parts of the human body causes a current to flow that can block the electrical signals between the brain and the muscles, which could result in the heart stopping, breathing difficulties and muscle spasms.