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We were at our new contract job today. We'd been asked to dig five holes for some apple trees that are coming and I cut into an electric cable, looked like the ordinary cable on your extension lead. We reckoned it was for the lighting bollards that are dotted around the edge of the pathways. This was 12" down, in a shrubbery, that do tend to get dug now and then. The cable should have surely, ideally, been put under the path so I'm guessing the bollards must have been installed after the path (tarmac) was laid. I reported it to the site representative/spokesman and on the way home we had a call from the estate managers. Upshot is we are responsible for repair. Well I don't think we should be. Firstly we were asked to dig these holes (is that relevant) and secondly, shouldn't an electric cable in a shrub border be encased in strong plastic piping?. I said this to the manager chappie, he was very nice but said he'd invoice us. I like to see fair play but I can't argue it or (and if the place blows up tonight) we might loose our job. -- and they haven't seen our Acidantheras yet. -- Is this right?

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  • PRO

    I always issued terms and conditions that clearly state that unless underground hazards were pointed out in advance that we cannot be responsible for any damage.

    The cable should be carried in a protective conduit and buried at 2'6" and ideally with a yellow plastic warning strip laid 6" above the cable. It sounds to me as though the manager is not quite right here and at least should enter into discussions.

    There are a number of underground waterproof connections that could be used to repair this cut and this method should not be expensive. If you are forced to pay for the repair then insist you provide your own electrician.

    I would then ask that your client provides you with a detailed map of the submerged cable for future reference and that you submit revised T&C's that clearly states that if you encounter any further cables that have not been noted previously then you cannot be responsible for any damage caused.
  • I will not comment on the right or wrongs of the cable being laid in the first place but surely this is why we have insurance?

    If the job was taken on under a formal contract I believe the buck stops with you. If it was more a casual request then you could argue the toss.

    Fingers crossed the place doesn’t burn down.

    But Phil's response sums it all up nicely.
  • Request to view the groundwork / services plans from the manager, perhaps this and a scan of the area with a (Hired @ £36 per day) CAT scan should of been the order of play be for any excavations commence.

    If the cable is on the plan, ask yourself whether the cable is armoured, ducted and topped with, as Phil says, yellow electric warning tape.

    If the answers to the above are yes then your only strong point is the depth of cable.

    Should the answer be no, then luckily for you he has right to try turning his lack of management towards you by pointing the finger.

    By the way did you have some from of induction before you set foot on the new site? As so take a look at the site risk assessment for the project.

  • phils spot on , should get it fixed quite cheaply,under £50. it shows goodwill,even if they were in the wrong.but do clarify your contract terms,cover your behind
  • I think all previous comments have this pretty well rapped up, I agree that just carrying out a repair would not be a good option, the cable is obviously not up to standard, what if a fault happens later will they drag you in as the first culprit to their suspect wiring.

    I clipped a phone cable last year, I put my hands up and contacted BT and sorted it all out before the owner came home that day (thanks to fast response from BT engineer) guess how much they charge for a pretty straight forward connection....

    ooooohhh only about 400 quid !!!

    You only have to do this once to make you very cautious next time..

    I suppose with any hole digging you would need to ask about the amenities of the place anyway though... wouldn't you ??
  • well it should be disscussed , show then where it was, (the problem) were they @ back of border , was it obvious , were there other cables nearby?
    were they laid correctly ? did the person who asked you to dig, know they were there?
    who decided on the holes.?
    the law states : ' what is reasonable' many times in 'contract'-law.
    how much are you getting paid?
    surely if its 3 core flex its only a matter of cutting with a pliars, splicing yellow, red and black? wires, maybe digging it up a bit soeasier?
    using a connector block ?? - then sealing it again to make it work , then its up to them and in the position they were before !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THEN THEY CAN MAKE IT LEGAL. HAVE A SIGN AND WARNING OR SITE-PLAN , if they are some big or important organisation that they think !!?? remember they CANT ;HAVE IT BOTH WAYS!' ie : be right about everything ?its tough if they had ;no sign; etc ...........so phone now and expain all this proffessionaly. fix it yourself or if that is there attitude
    SEND THEM AN INVOICE AT THE END OF THE WEEK FOR ALL YOUR TIME (TOTAL TIME ON SITE THAT DAY AT AGREED PRICE AND LET THEM DIG THERE apple tree holes themselves) its not a good place to work if they dont want to be'fair'' or 'help you' ! or simply they should be insured !! tough luck.......or you can claim -pay your excess then add/work in £10 pound each week over 10weeks to get your money back...............................? how much other 'good'/well paid work is there on the premises?
  • Going back to my Health & Safety Manager days (last year).
    prior to work commencing the customer has to do a risk assessment for the site/work they are asking their contractor (you) to undertake. e.g. To prevent you putting your metal tools through a high/low voltage cable.
    They have the responsibility to tell you where the mains services are, how deeply buried, etc.
    You then need to present them with your safe system of work.
    They then issue you with a Permit to work.

    If you are unsure of how you stand legaly get in touch with the HSE via their web site. They also have local advisors attached to many councils.
    As for the moral position, their estate manager is paid to understand and implement current UK health & safety legisilation, Health & Safety at Work Act, etc. You reported the accident, as you should.
    If they get awkward how about suggesting you call the Environment Officer or HSE Officer in to give a judgement call? This usually frightens the bejazzers out of companies as it would also involve them bringing all their H&S documentation up-to-date.
    It won't heal the relationship but then if they are laying the cost of repair straight at your door, without any discussion, is it that good anyway?
    For further information/guidance try the Health and Safety for Beginners web site. They are very knowledgable & friendly.
  • Well, the following day I couldn't get to talk to the manager so I contacted the site representative asking him to have a look at LJN and all of your advice. He duely sorted it out with the management, pointing out that I could've been fried. We'll be getting a plan of the mains services and we will take a look at our contract T&C. Even though I was not going to accept the blame I would not have let this little incident jeopardise our job here, it just needed discussing as the man initially hadn't heard what I was telling him. LJN made it easy for me.Thankyou. (a little more succinct than usual there Pro Gard.)
  • PRO
    Excellent news Pete and thanks for the feedback.

    Perhaps an example of an intangible benefit eventually becoming tangible?
  • Pete, I just wanted to thank you for this post, and glad you have reached a solution.

    Most of our grass areas are on raised beds, and usually the funders we use manage the projects when we have made a successful bid. But most of this funding is via the council, and one thing I am keen on is identifying other funding sources. One of the advantages of the current arrangements is we are not responsible for such concerns.

    But it is yet another weakness identified that we have no idea what is below ground. At least if we were aware we could highlight any concerns to contractors prior to work starting.

    We have just had an incident where 'water' was seeping up through our football area and running down to the street gutter. The stench was awful and we thought it might be sewage water. Fortunately it was found that some of the local storm drains are blocked and it is more likely to be stangnant water. We have now involved the council.

    Anyway, as a result of this post I have emailed a couple of people to see if we can get plans of what is beneath ground and where they run.

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