Egger workers at Hexham chipboard plant put at risk after digger hit cable

Hexham-based Egger (UK) Ltd and Northern Construction Solutions Ltd have been prosecuted after a digger hit an underground cable putting lives at risk

Egger UK chipboard factory in Hexham
Egger UK chipboard factory in Hexham

Two North East companies have been fined after workers’ lives were put at risk when a digger struck an underground cable.

Hexham-based Egger (UK) Ltd and Northern Construction Solutions Ltd, of Chester-le-Street, were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failings with the management of groundworks.

Newcastle Magistrates’ Court was told how a digger struck the 20kV cable on March 19 last year, during work on Egger’s Hexham site. The groundworks and civil engineering works were sub-contracted to Northern Construction Solutions Ltd.

Two workers, engaged on behalf of Northern Construction Solutions, had been asked to excavate the area in front of a newly-built electric substation for the installation of drainage. Both workers were unharmed by the incident, but HSE inspectors found that Egger was responsible for the provision of an up-to-date services diagram that included the location of underground electric cables. It failed to update this diagram after cables were re-routed.

The court heard that although it was the duty of Egger to provide Northern Construction Solutions with appropriate information, the contractors equally had a duty to provide workers with the information. Instead, they accepted the out-of-date services diagram, even though they knew there had been changes made in the area to be excavated.

Egger (UK) was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £578.90 costs after pleading guilty to breaching the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. Northern Construction Solutions Ltd was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £761.60 costs after pleading guilty to breaching the same rules.

After the case, HSE Inspector Andrea Robbins said: “Fortunately nobody was hurt in this incident. However, the potential for serious, even fatal, injuries was foreseeable. Had Egger and Northern Construction Solutions adequately planned and managed the risks arising from contact with live underground cables before the excavation work started, this incident would have most probably been avoided.”

Dave Gardner, a director at Northern Construction Solutions, said: “This is the first time NCS has been prosecuted by the HSE and we deeply regret the incident at the Egger project. Since the incident, we have put processes in place within the company to prevent anything like this happening again.”

An Egger spokesman said: “Although we already have recognised method statements and control measures in place, we accept that further procedures need to be implemented. We have reviewed our internal processes and will develop even more rigorous control measures for the future.

“We are proud of our safety record at the Hexham site during more than £200m of investment taking place over the last decade. Thankfully, there were no injuries – but we are disappointed that we failed in our duties on this occasion.”

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