Construction worker suffers serious burns due to insufficient protection

  • Health & Safety
Electricity fire
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

A live electricity incident that left a worker with serious burns has seen a fine imposed on Principal Contractor involved

The incident, which happened in May 2020, took place on a construction site on Hulme Street, Salford. Carl Lowery, 41, had been working alongside a colleague at SRE Cabling and Jointing Limited. SRE Cabling was sub-contracted by Aberla M&E Limited to carry out cabling and jointing works on a new apartment block.

Carl and his colleague were working on the building’s main switchboard. Bus bars nearby were still live with electricity, covered by a guard panel. A gap in this guard panel meant a nut was able to roll behind. It came into contact with the live bus bars, causing an electrical flash – this blew Carl backwards, burning his arms and face.

Investigating the incident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the site’s Principal Contractors, Abela M&E Limited, had assumed the guard panel would provide sufficient separation to protect workers from the live bus bars. The gap in the panel hadn’t been accounted for – a gap large enough for nuts, bolts, tools and even fingers to come into contact with the bus bars.

HSE also discovered that Aberla M&E did not issue a permit to work on or near live components, which was how the switchboard had been left live. The electrical site manager rarely visited the area, owing to a lack of live works monitoring by the company.

Three years previously, Carl Lowery had lost his son Bradley to a rare form of cancer. He set up the Bradley Lowery Foundation in his honour, to help families to access medical equipment and treatment.

In his personal victim statement, Carl referenced this time in his life: “Even when Bradley was poorly I worked. I’ve not been able to work since the accident either, mentally or physically.

“My left hand is my dominant hand and after the accident I had no grip. I had to try and learn how to use my non-dominant hand.”

Appearing at Manchester Magistrates Court on 14 March 2024, Aberla M&E Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 in costs.

HSE Inspector Lisa Bailey spoke following the sentencing: “This incident has had life-changing consequences for Carl and his family. It could have been avoided if the company had actively monitored and managed procedures, to identify risks and prevent incidents.

“Working with electricity is a high-risk activity and safety must be a priority. Proper planning to ensure that risks are eliminated at system design stage is essential.”

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