Firm fined after workers exposed to risk of electric shock

A Tyneside firm has been fined after an electrical system was left in a dangerous condition exposing workers to the risk of electric shock or electrocution.

Darlington Magistrates' Court heard yesterday (16 August) that Coolcheck Refrigeration Ltd failed to ensure parts of an electrical system were left in a safe condition following work carried out to disconnect a refrigerated counter unit at business premises in Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the company after its investigation found that an employee of Coolcheck Refrigeration Ltd had disconnected the unit and placed electrical tape over the switch of the circuit breaker to indicate that the circuit should remain isolated. However the copper conducting wires of the disconnected cable became dangerously exposed.

The court was told that two weeks later a worker in the building moved the cable to carry out some work. When he did this the copper conducting wires touched the wall of the building and an electrical short circuit occurred.

Coolcheck Refrigeration Ltd, of Unit D4 Bergen Close, Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate, North Shields, was fined a total of £7,000 and ordered to pay £2,500 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4(3) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

After the case, HSE Inspector Keith Partington, said:

"This incident could have easily been prevented. Coolcheck Refrigeration Ltd employed a number of competent electricians and should have planned the works so that the electrical supply to the equipment was properly isolated by disconnection of wiring at the relevant circuit breaker.

"The electrical supply to the cable was 240 volts and was capable of causing electric shock or electrocution. After any work on an electrical system it should be left in a condition which prevents danger.

"The use of electrical tape to effect isolation of the switches on miniature circuit breaker electrical systems is regarded as unsafe practice by the Electrical Safety Council, which warns against it in their guidance to the industry."

Tags: HSE, electrical digest, e-lec.org