Recent prosecutions: Company fined £50,000 following electric shock incident

Following a serious electric shock incident, a scaffolding company has been slapped with a £50,000 fine and its director received a suspended prison sentence. 

A worker suffered an 11,000-volt electric shock while building a temporary roof scaffold over an open-air depot. When moving a six-metre scaffold tube, the young father struck an 11kV power line that ran across the site. He sustained life-altering burns to his hands and fell more than five metres to the ground, severely breaking his leg.  

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the scaffolding company and its director had not adequately risk assessed the hazardous assembly job. The HSE also found that neither the contractor nor its director had contacted the power network operator about line voltage and safe clearance, even though they were aware of its proximity to a high-voltage wire. 

With the director’s onsite supervision, the scaffolding team were permitted to lift six-metre metal tubes within immediate range of the high-voltage line with no preventative safety measures. 

Following a hearing, the company received a £50,000 fine and its director was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months. He was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

The HSE inspector said: ‘This scaffolder’s injuries were life-changing and could have been fatal.

‘This incident could have been avoided if this high-risk scaffold job had been properly planned, including seeking free advice from the network operator on what precautions to take, and then implementing those well-established precautions to prevent accidental contact with the overhead line.’

Safety around high-voltage lines 

Working near overhead power lines requires meticulous planning to prevent serious or fatal accidents. As an employer, you have a legal obligation to identify and act on the risks involved. While it’s essential to use precautionary measures on every job, all projects present unique hazards. Speak to your Opus consultant for personalised guidance. 

Here are the basics to consider before beginning any project: 

  • Carry out a comprehensive site-specific risk assessment before starting any work. Include additional dangers from other overhead and underground utilities, not just electricity. 
  • Ensure your risk assessment evaluates cable voltage and height, machinery size and reach, safe clearance distances, site and weather conditions, and your team’s competence, training, and supervision. 

For specialised safety support, talk to the Opus team 

Correct preparation and risk assessment can save lives, particularly in high-risk environments. For expert support on pinpointing hazards and establishing safe working practices, speak to your Opus Safety consultant on 0330 043 4015 or email