Burn Injuries at Work Lead to Induced Coma

Safety Failings Lead to Burns Coma 25910

A north London-based labourer received life-threatening burns after an explosion, a Court has heard.

Agency worker Vlatko Milenkov, 31, was hired by Dray Building and was among a team tasked with stripping out a property in Westminster prior to its refurbishment.

Burn Injuries

Mr Milenkov began by removing electrical equipment from a basement wall, believing that it had all been safely disconnected and left dead, meaning it would have no active electrical current running through it.

But when the worker severed the cable, it exploded, causing an intense fireball.

Mr Milenkov was rushed to hospital with extensive burn injuries to his limbs, body and face. Doctors put the man in an induced coma for two weeks and when he woke up he had to stay on a burns ward for an extensive period of time.

When he was released from hospital he began to experience serious psychological problems and still has to put up with persistent pain.

Work Accident Investigation

After being told of the workplace accident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) dispatched an inspector to assess the causes of Mr Milenkov's injuries.

Investigations revealed that most of the equipment on the site was dead, but Dray Building, the man's contractor, had not provided suitable signage for which cables were still live. Had these requirements been adhered to it is unlikely that the agency worker would have severed the cable and caused an explosion.

Cable strikes are, according to the HSE, a "well-known" risk in the construction and refurbishment industry, but Dray Building did not do enough to ensure that staff members were protected from harm.

In its construction plans, Dray Building noted that all live wiring should be marked as such, but this was not completed and many electrical appliances remained active.

Prosecution

After reviewing all of the available evidence, the HSE decided to launch a prosecution against Dray Building for failing to take care of agency workers it hired and protect them from harm.

Following a short hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court, Dray Building was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £9,882 in costs after admitting a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations.

After the case, HSE inspector Stephron Baker Holmes said, "It would have been a straightforward matter to provide suitable warning notices and barriers in this case, and it is likely these simple measures would have prevented an incident like this from happening.

"As a result of Dray Building's failures, however, this man suffered life-changing and initially life-threatening injuries, and the quality of his life remains significantly diminished.

"Controlling the risks at source would have been more effective than relying on assumptions about individuals' awareness of the risks."

Similar Burn Injury Case

Last month saw a similar case processed through Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Geoffrey Cinko, a builder, was fined £10,000 and told to pay £10,000 in costs after one of his employees suffered serious chemical burns while assisting with the concreting of a basement excavation.

By Francesca Witney