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Trial over electric cable found under traffic cone that gave workers shocks

Trial over electric cable found under traffic cone that gave workers shocks

Thursday 13 October 2022

Trial over electric cable found under traffic cone that gave workers shocks

Thursday 13 October 2022

A pair of contractors suffered shocks from a cable discovered under a traffic cone surrounded by tape indicating telecoms and water - rather than electricity - during building work, the Royal Court heard yesterday.

The incident at a property in St. Helier last February led to construction firm Rok Homes being charged with breaching the Jersey Health and Safety at Work law, and it is currently on trial.

The company denied failing to comply with legislation requiring it to identify electricity services during building work, to assess risks and to disconnect or isolate the supply of electricity.

The trial, which is expected to last three days, opened on Wednesday morning, before Commissioner, Sir Michael Birt, sitting with Jurats Pamela Pitman and David Hughes.

Laying out the facts of the case, Crown Advocate Simon Thomas explained that the cable was found in late November 2020, when a landscaping company dug a trench on the site at West Hill.

It was then scanned by site manager Joseph Quinn, but that the scanner showed no evidence that it was live, with the trench being left partially open for two weeks afterwards.

In early December, the cable emerged once more as plumbers laid a water main in the trench, at which point Mr Quinn placed a traffic cone over it and directed a colleague to back-fill the trench, marking the area with green and blue tape to denote telecoms and water services, rather than yellow, which signals an electric cable.

Mr Quinn said in a statement that he was "90% confident" that the cable was dead, and admitted that the issue had not been reported at the time to Jersey Electricity.

Advocate Thomas said that Rok Homes project director Marc Godel subsequently claimed that the cable had later been mentioned informally to Jersey Electricity - but JEC later said it had no record of such a conversation.

When workers from Geomarine went to the site on 8 February to lay a temporary electricity cable in the trench, they saw the traffic cone, and suffered shocks as they attempted to remove it. They were wearing protective suits and were not seriously injured, Advocate Thomas added.

The court heard that when he gave a statement in May 2021, Mr Godel told health and safety inspectors that the potential risks had been pointed out to the Geomarine employees, and added that the blame lay with Geomarine and Jersey Electricity for not acting on what they had been told.

Mr Thomas concluded: "It is plainly dangerous to rely on an assumption that an unexpected cable is dead without referring to the specialist utility provider.

"As a result of Rok's actions, several individuals were placed at risk, two suffering actual harm, and it is a matter of good fortune that the harm was not more serious."

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