HSE issues fines after electrician suffers serious burns in warehouse explosion

HSE has issued fines after an electrician suffered serious burns in a warehouse explosion in Liverpool, requiring several skin grafts

HSE has fined a retail company and an electrical contracting company after an electrician suffered serious burns in a warehouse explosion at B&M Retail Ltd warehouse, in Speke.

On 22 September 2018, the metal spanner used by the electrician to repair an electrical fault came into contact with a live busbar (metallic strip) linked to the power distribution.

The resulting explosion burned 15 per cent of the electrician’s body, including his thighs, legs, arms, face and hands. The 35-year-old was placed in an induced coma for two weeks and had to undergo several skin grafts.

As a result of the incident, the electrician was unable to work for five months. The victim was deeply affected by the accident not only physically, but mentally

The victim said: “I am very conscious of the scars and always think people are staring at me or talking about me behind my back. To me, my arms look like Freddy Kruger’s from Nightmare on Elm Street.”

“I now can’t play with my little boys as much as I used to and I’m worried about hurting myself, and they are worried about hurting me. I have paranoia of being touched. I do worry about the future as I know the pain will never go away and might get worse, leaving me unable to work and support my family.”

A lack of appropriate coordination and incompetency lead to the explosion

A HSE investigation found that there was insufficient planning between the parties of Daker Ltd and B&M Retail Ltd regarding who oversaw each site, coordination of work and exchange of relevant documentation.

The victim, employed by Daker Ltc, had been attempting to connect a generator to B&M’s Low Voltage supply in order to allow B&M to operate some of its core site functions whilst high voltage maintenance was being undertaken.

This work was complex involving several contractors and required co-ordination of different working parties with specific time limited requirements.

B&M failed to appoint a suitably competent person to plan and carry out the work to connect temporary generators to their distribution board at the premises.

Electrical contractors Daker Ltd.’s work methods fell well below the required standards. Electrical work commenced without proper planning. The power supply to the circuit was not stopped prior to the incident and live working was allowed to take place, this meant that the power supply could be switched on or off at any point, putting workers at risk of electric shock.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Roger Clarke said: “This incident has had life-changing consequences on the victim and his family.

“It could have been avoided if the companies involved had taken the time to appropriately plan and coordinate tasks to ensure the circuit was dead, eliminating the risk of electrocution to workers. Working with electricity is a high-risk activity and safety must be a priority.”

Daker Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £100.

B&M Retail Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) and Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. At Liverpool Crown Court, the company was fined £1,000,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,978.