Inadequate planning puts workers and public at risk

A large construction company has been fined nearly £4.5m as a result of prosecutions for health and safety failings that led to two overhead powerline strikes whilst carrying out motorway roadworks.

Kier Infrastructure and Overseas Ltd was carrying out roadworks to covert a section of the M6 in Cheshire to a smart motorway.  Whilst undertaking the project, workers came into contact with overhead power lines on two separate occasions.

What went wrong?

In the first incident, whilst carrying out work at night to remove tarmac, a team moved a truck with its bucket raised.  The bucket hit and cut an 11kV overhead cable which landed on the motorway and in an adjacent field.  The team didn’t notify the power network operator straightaway, resulting in the powerline being reenergised several times whilst lying in the still-open motorway. 

The second incident happened when a different team was moving a motorway barrier.  The crane being used struck an overhead powerline, which lead to the line being subsequently struck and severed by an oncoming lorry.

Cause and punishment  

Upon investigation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that inadequate planning resulted in both incidents.  As a result, the company was prosecuted.

The company pleaded guilty to failing in its duties under sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of its employees and non-employees affected by its activities.   

The company also pleaded guilty to breaching its duty under regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 as the principal contractor to plan, manage and supervise the construction work and co-ordinate health and safety matters to enable work to be carried out without risks to health and safety. 

In total, the company was fined £4.415m and ordered to pay costs of £80,760 in respect of both incidents.

Lessons learned 

As with so many of these cases, the health and safety failings and significant financial implications could have so easily been avoided had the company undertaken its duties to protect not only its employees but members of the public too.  

As principal contractor, a company must be responsible for all aspects of health and safety on site. Failure to do so can have huge consequences – which in some cases, can be fatal.  

For guidance in ensuring your organisation is meeting its health and safety responsibilities, contact our team of experts today.