A Tyneside refrigeration firm has been fined after an electrical system was left in a dangerous condition exposing workers to the risk of electric shock or electrocution.
Darlington Magistrates’ Court heard that Coolcheck Refrigeration failed to ensure parts of an electrical system were left in a safe condition following work carried out to disconnect a refrigerated counter unit at commercial premises in Bishop Auckland.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the company after its investigation found that an employee of the firm had disconnected the unit and placed electrical tape over the switch of the circuit breaker to indicate that the circuit should remain isolated. However, the copper conducting wires of the disconnected cable became dangerously exposed.
The court was told that two weeks later a worker in the building moved the cable to carry out some work. When he did this the copper conducting wires touched the wall of the building and an electrical short circuit occurred.
Coolcheck was handed a fine of £7,000 and ordered to pay £2,500 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4(3) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.
“This incident could have easily been prevented,” said HSE Inspector Keith Partington. “Coolcheck Refrigeration employed a number of competent electricians and should have planned the works so that the electrical supply to the equipment was properly isolated by disconnection of wiring at the relevant circuit breaker.”
Partington said that the electrical supply to the cable was 240 volts — enough to cause an electric shock or electrocution —and therefore any work done to the electrical system should have been left in a condition which prevents danger.
“The use of electrical tape to effect isolation of the switches on miniature circuit breaker electrical systems is regarded as unsafe practice by the Electrical Safety Council, which warns against it in their guidance to the industry,” he said.
Coolcheck has been providing refrigeration and air conditioning services to the commercial market for more than 25 years. It installs everything from individual fridges, freezers and bottle coolers to complete refrigeration system installations, including cold rooms, freezer rooms, ice machines and runs of multi-decks.
It provides servicing and maintenance to Greggs the Bakers across the North of England and counts many of the North East’s hospitals among its client base.