07 November 2022
ROK Homes Ltd (ROK) was found not guilty of breaching Regulation 21 of the ‘Management in Construction (Jersey) Regulations, 2016' on 28 October 2022, following a five day trial.
The case surrounded the management of an underground electricity cable identified during excavation works being undertaken at a property known as ‘Pineridge’, West Hill, St. Helier. The cable was initially discovered on 23 November 2020 when a trench was dug to install a temporary water supply to the site. The cable, which appeared intact at that time, was not shown on the cable drawings obtained from Jersey Electricity (JE). The foreman scanned the cable using a cable avoidance tool (CAT) but received no signal to indicate that it was live, before the open trench was covered with steel plates to allow vehicles to pass over and gain access to the site.
On Saturday 05 December 2020 the plates were removed, and the temporary water main installed in the trench. As the foreman checked the work before the trench was backfilled, he spotted a frayed end of the electricity cable in the bottom of the trench. He CAT scanned the cable and again received no signal to indicate it was live. Stating that he was 90% confident that the cable was dead he then moved the cable away from the water main, bent the end up and placed it in a traffic cone. Laying some green and blue warning tape, typically used to denote telecoms and water services, as there was no yellow warning tape typically used to denote electricity services on site, along the line of the damaged cable, the trench was then backfilled. The company did not contact JE to report the damaged cable as, being a weekend, this could only be achieved by using the 24-hour emergency service and the company did not consider it was an emergency.
On 08 February 2021 two operatives from Geomarine were tasked to re-excavate the trench to allow for a temporary electricity site supply to be installed by JE. During excavation they came across the buried traffic cone. Both operatives reported receiving minor electric shocks when coming into contact with the cable as they prised up the cone to see what it was and the electricity cable unexpectedly fell out of it. JE attended the site and subsequently took the appropriate action to make the damaged cable safe.
ROK Homes Ltd was charged with a breach of Regulation 21 of the Construction Regulations which requires the relevant contractor, before construction work commences, to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, that existing services are identified, the condition of, and risks posed by, those services assessed and, where contact with the service would present a risk to persons on the site, the service is removed, disconnected or otherwise isolated so that such contact would be prevented.
During the trial ROK Homes described how the electricity cable had not been shown on the JE drawings they had requested during the planning stages of the construction project, no signal had been detected when the cable was CAT scanned and its presence had been mentioned to a JE engineer during general conversations on three separate occasions, albeit this was not recalled by the engineer concerned. ROK also stated that the Geomarine operatives had been told about the cable inserted into the buried cone by the site foreman before they started work, although this was disputed by the Geomarine operatives.
After the concluding arguments presented by the Crown and the defence, the two Jurats retired to consider the evidence presented to the Court over the five days. When delivering the verdict, the Judge stated that the Jurats were unanimous in finding the company not guilty of a breach of Regulation 21 of the Construction Regulations.
Guidance on excavation and underground services
The HSI has published guidance on working safely and avoiding danger from underground services and other utility apparatus, often referred to as the ‘Yellow booklet’