An Oxfordshire construction company has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an employee suffered life-threatening burns after striking an electric cable during construction work on the Crossrail railway.

The worker, who was employed by for Fugro Engineering Services, was using a hydraulic breaker to create an inspection pit for a borehole on Hanover Street in central London in February 2008. The hydraulic breaker hit a high voltage electric cable leaving the worker, who was 63 at the time, with 60% burns.

An investigation by the HSE following the accident found that a safe system of work was not in place at the time of the incident and employee roles were not clearly defined. They had also failed to provide appropriate training in safe digging techniques. The HSE described the accident as “completely foreseeable”.

Fugro Engineering Services Ltd pleaded to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in relation to the accident. The company was fined £55,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 in costs.

This serious incident could have been avoided

HSE inspector Lisa Chappell said: “There is well-established guidance and training to ensure digging is carried out safely.

“Had Fugro Engineering Services provided the correct training, supervision and a safe system of work, proportionate to the level of risk involved, then this serious incident could have been avoided.”

Gwen Kirby-Dent, a solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors’ Serious Injuries Team said: “The employee suffered significant and painful injuries, the scars of which will be life-long. Fugro Engineering Services failed to provide a reasonably safe system of work which would have prevented this terrible accident.”