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CROSS Safety Report

Lighting pole strikes live overhead cable

Report ID: 605 Published: 1 April 2017 Region: CROSS-UK

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An excavator operator accidentally struck a live overhead cable during the installation of a lighting pole.

This resulted in the ground worker, who was holding the base of the lighting column, receiving an electric shock and contact/exit burns.

Key Learning Outcomes

For construction professionals:

  • It is good practice to carry out a risk assessment and method statement (RAMS) for all construction activities. This can ensure hazards such as overhead cables are identified.

  • Regular toolbox talks are a good way of engaging with work crews and highlighting any risks associated with work activities

  • Implementation of the Project CDM Regulations 2015 plan can ensure individuals are aware of their duties and avoid any confusion on site

Full Report

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The Full Report below has been submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s experience. The text has been edited for clarity and to ensure anonymity and confidentiality by removing any identifiable details. If you would like to know more about our secure reporting process or submit a report yourself, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.


Late on a January afternoon a site team was placing lighting columns into previously installed sleeves. The base of an eight metre column was positioned at the top of the plastic sleeve that was cast into the ground by a ground worker. An excavator operator then began to lift the column, guided by a foreman/banksman, so that the base could be slid into the sleeve. As the column was moved towards the vertical position, it came into contact with an 11kV overhead cables located directly above the sleeve.

This resulted in the ground worker, who was holding the base of the lighting column, receiving an electric shock and contact/exit burns. The overhead cables did not immediately trip and the worker remained in contact with the lighting column and the foreman had to use a length of timber to free the ground worker from the live column. He also received an electric shock.

Confusion over responsibilities on site

There appeared to have been collective human errors, mainly perception slips and memory lapses from the individuals involved. A diminished situation awareness resulted in the overhead power lines being unnoticed and the lifting operation proceeding. One reason may have been due to poor contrast between the power lines with the sky. Another was that there was some confusion over responsibilities between the project team and the contractor.

Lessons learned

The designer did not identify that safety information regarding the presence of the overhead cables had been omitted from the initial design drawing nor did the designer visit site to ascertain the actual conditions. The Project CDM plan under CDM Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) was not completed by the project team and this contributed to the confusion over who was discharging which CDM duty holder role. In future it will be ensured that:

  • Individuals discharging duties under CDM 2015 have been trained and assessed to the correct competence level

  • All changes in a design must be accompanied by a declaration from the designer that the hazard warning drawings (where appropriate) have been reviewed

  • Further training to all levels for construction managers for application of risk assessments, method statements and safety briefings

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