Workers engulfed in fireball in Telford

An incident at an industrial unit in Telford in August 2010 provided a dramatic demonstration of the necessity of fire safety training in the workplace, after two workers were engulfed in a ball of fire.

The workers had been asked to locate the cause of an underground water leak at the empty industrial unit, and had been instructed to dig at a particular spot by the manager of the site. The workers did as requested using an electrical drill.

Unfortunately, in doing so they cut through a 1,000 volt live electrical cable. This caused a fireball equivalent to 43,000 watts of energy to engulf both workers, causing severe burns to their hands, arms and faces. Both had to be airlifted to hospital, and one of the men was thought unlikely to survive.

The subsequent investigation found that no risk assessment had been undertaken, no plans had been consulted, and that the workers had not been provided with the relevant training about digging near to underground services.

The incident resulted in life-threatening injuries to the workers and a hefty fine for the company and the manager involved.