Chatham housing firm fined £528k after worker suffers burns in 'potentially fatal' incident

Chatham social housing company fined £528K after employee burns face but it 'could have been fatal'
Chatham social housing company fined £528K after employee burns face but it 'could have been fatal' -Credit:Google Street View

A social housing company has been fined £528,000 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a worker suffered burns to his face after striking an electrical cable. The HSE said "it could have been much worse and potentially fatal".

The MHS Homes employee was repairing fences with a colleague in a tenant's back garden on January 10 last year. He inadvertently hit the underground cable while using a "breaker" on the concrete.

The HSE said the company had failed to provide the workers with information about the location of the cable and gas pipe, and had not given them tools to excavate safely around them. MHS Homes, which is based in Chatham, manages 9,500 homes in the Medway, Maidstone, Gravesham, Dartford, and Tonbridge and Malling areas of Kent.

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It is the largest independent social landlord in the UK. The group includes Heart of Medway Housing Association which manages over 900 homes.

MHS Homes chief executive Ashley Hook said: "MHS Homes has pleaded guilty to a breach of health and safety regulations. Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured during the incident, but we accept that safe working practices were not complied with on this occasion.

"We self-reported the incident immediately to the HSE and we’ve cooperated fully with their investigation. We also commissioned an independent review of our health and safety policies and procedures.

"We have learnt lessons from this incident to make sure it can never happen again." The HSE investigation found MHS Homes "often" carried out excavation work, but "never" gave information to teams about where underground services were, or gave them detection and excavation equipment.

It said on this occasion, the two employees were digging by an electrical cable and a gas infrastructure. This "heightened the risk of a fire or explosion, with the potential to kill not only the employees but members of the public nearby", as well as destroying the property.

After the sentencing hearing on April 24 at Maidstone Magistrates’ Court, HSE inspector Peter Bruce said: “Underground services are widespread and represent a significant risk. It is important measures are taken to identify them before any excavation work is undertaken.

“On this occasion, an electrical cable was struck and a worker suffered minor injuries. However it could have been much worse and potentially fatal."

“Those excavating the ground need to ensure that they obtain service plans prior to the work taking place. It is also vital that employees are provided with the correct tools and detection equipment to do their work safely.”

The company pleaded guilty to breaching construction regulations. It was also ordered to pay £4,122 costs.

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