Electrical Flashover

Reports have circulated recently relating to serious injuries being sustained by a demolition operative resulting from an electrical flashover. The reports outline that a demolition contractor forced the door of a low voltage circuit breaker cubicle open using a metal crowbar. In doing so, the crowbar went across the terminals of the three phase service and caused a flashover that seriously burnt the individual and set the building on fire.

The factory on this site was redundant but the 11,000 Volt substation and low voltage service on site were live. No request to disconnect the substation and electricity service was made by the property owner when the factory closed down. Power was still being used on the site but at a reduced level.

With the complexity of some demolition sites, the practice of working in and around live services is sometimes an unavoidable challenge. In these cases the strict procedures and robust precautions are needed to ensure no one comes to harm.

In this case the injured person received life changing burns to his hands and face and as a result the demolition company who employed the injured person is under investigation by the HSE for breaches of health and safety legislation.

Whilst the investigation will highlight any failings and learning opportunities,  this serves as a general reminder of the dangers that services present during demolition works and the responsibility for preventing serious incidents of this nature sits with all duty holders not just the demolition contractor.


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