Occupational Health & Safety

British Utility Pays Heavy Fine in Arc Flash Fatality

UK Power Networks (Operations) Ltd., which supplies power to London and southeastern England, pleaded guilty and has been fined $442,000 and ordered to pay $233,000 in court costs, HSE reported.

The May 2008 death of an electrical engineer working for UK Power Networks (Operations) Ltd, which supplies power to London and southeastern England, has resulted in a $442,000 fine and an additional $233,000 in court costs the utility has been ordered to pay, Britain's Health and Safety Executive reported Jan. 4.

John Higgins, 59, from Colchester, died in an arc flash explosion at an electrical substation in Bishops Hall Lane in Chelmsford on May 7, 2008. He was working on a transformer tap changer, a device for manually adjusting voltage ratios, when it exploded, and Chelmsford Crown Court heard Jan. 4 the explosion caused a fire at the substation and also blacked out a large part of Chelmsford, including Broomfield Hospital. Higgins died at the scene.

HSE's investigation found that UK Power Networks had failed to properly assess work with tap changers, did not devise procedures for the work, and failed to adequately train employees for carrying it out. The utility has since revised its procedures for the task, HSE reported.

"John Higgins lost his life in tragic circumstances that could have been avoided had this activity had been properly assessed and managed by UK Power Networks," said Steven Gill, an HSE inspector. "His death illustrates how dangerous work on or near electrical distribution networks can be and how imperative it is that employers, large or small, ensure that all activities involving high-voltage electrical equipment are properly assessed and that safe systems of work in place. There is no room for error or complacency when working with high voltage equipment."

For information on electrical safety at work, visit www.hse.gov.uk/electricity.

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