ICE mock trial - service strike

Fiona writes:

I recently attended a very interesting mock trial event.

Hosted by ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers), it was a re-enactment of a previous case brought by the HSE. The case followed a supervisor prosecuted under the Health at Safety at Work Act 1974 following a cable strike.

As an introduction, Kirsty Gomersal of DAC Beachcroft told us about a conversation with Peter Crosland, civil engineering director of CECA (Civil Engineering Contractors Association). They discussed how re-enacting a case to the industry could show how certain events can lead to accidents and then prosecutions.

The case

Peter Crosland played the judge. The case was about a team leader who was a mini digger driver: she started to dig a hole and struck a 11,000kv cable. The strike had injured herself and another worker, who was the supervisor’s brother. He received severe injuries and third degree burns.

We (the jury) were able to participate using the Slido app: we asked questions and at the end we offered our verdicts and the sentencing.

Having served on a jury before (in real life) I found it interesting hearing from the prosecution and gaining a view. Then I looked at matters in a completely different context upon hearing from the defence.

The findings

The company were found to have all paperwork in place and had carried out sufficient training. Therefore they were not prosecuted.

However the supervisor who was prosecuted had not followed company procedure, although he had received the relevant training. He had not checked that his team leader had carried out trial holes, marked out the position of the high voltage cable, or applied the hazard zone before work commenced. The team leader and supervisor had worked together for many years, and it was suggested that the works had been done before the supervisor issued a permit to work.

The importance of procedures

The day was a valuable reminder about importance of following procedures, and most importantly ensuring what you are signing is correct. The work documents are legally binding documents. The event also had key messages about communication, adherence to H&S documentation, training and designer responsibilities.

The auditorium was full and the event was attended by many of our clients, including

  • Highways England
  • Network Rail
  • Costain
  • Skanska
  • Murphy.

This showed they believe this to be a very important subject.

Fiona, Sean, John, Sam and Richard at the mock trial
From L to R: Fiona Dowling (HSQE adviser), Sean Murphy (project manager), John Winters (project manager), Sam Yick (graduate engineer) and Richard Wheeler (HSQE manager) at the mock trial

My fellow HSQE advisor Chantal Austin took the photograph on the right. She and I felt the day was a valuable reminder about dealing with incidents on site. I would definitely recommend these events to people at all levels, from operatives to directors.

Author: Fiona Dowling (HSQE adviser)

Read Will’s blog about the work we’re doing to cut the risks of cable strikes.

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