Worker drills into 11,000 volt cable

Two workmen were lucky to survive after one drilled through an 11,000 volt electric cable.

The resulting fireball was caught on CCTV as the men worked on the House of Lords site at Millbank, central London.

One of the men, who was 22 at the time, hit the cable with a jackhammer when removing old brickwork and suffered serious burns to his arms, legs, hands and face.He was in hospital for nearly a month after the incident in July 2013.

The other worker, a 63-year-old man, suffered significant burns to his face and neck and has been treated for long-term traumatic stress.

  • tom_billesley

    Always best to work with a C.A.T.

    • John_yawn

      Now the guy will probably need a guide D.O.G.

  • AlanUK

    It is a legal requirement in the UK to keep a record of hazards in a building. Obviously, this is difficult in an old building but I wonder if anyone did a proper investigation before work started.

    • tom_billesley

      Not just a risk assessment, you need a documented and briefed safe system of work including use of cable detection devices. You can’t rely on cables being where located on utility plans, and you can’t rely on a “dead” cable not becoming live.

      • AlanUK

        Agreed. A safe system of work will, of course, include identifying hazards and carrying out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.

  • infedel

    wow–I pray for the workers and their families during this Christmas season and throughout the New Year.

  • Brett_McS


  • Spatchcocked

    I did that. Adding on to my house….drilled into 220 ….
    Won’t happen again…..sometimes I am amazed at my stupidity.
    I’m always in a rush….know what I mean?

    • Xavier

      There are inexpensive devices that can sense electricity in your walls – they’re fairly reliable and well worth the investment.

      But why am I concerned about the well being of my competition for Marine? Hurry up and drill!

    • Clink9

      All you need to know about it ….. It’s in the walls and it hurts!

  • marty_p

    Stuff like this happens all the time.A few years ago workers were taking core samples of the concrete on the Highland Creek bridge in the east end of Toronto and they drilled through the Toronto to Montreal main fibre cable – not once but every sample they took as they worked along the bridge – turned the cable into a piece of Swiss cheese. No injury to the workers but a lot of telecom + TV + internet services were impacted.

    • tom_billesley

      About forty years ago a site investigation borehole was sunk into an underground railway tunnel in central London. A train driver reported that he’d hit an obstruction and they sent out another train with an inspector aboard which also hit the drilling tool.

  • Xavier

    I used to build golf courses which, as you may imagine, involves moving a lot of dirt. I saw a guy uproot and break a 17KV main with a backhoe and walk away unscathed but there were sparks a-flyin’ – his mistake was not calling the utility company before trying to plant a tree. Later, a machine called a rocking trencher – like a rotating wheel with teeth – went through a fiber optic bundle that the utility company had marked. That little mistake cost $250,000 to fix – they put a tent over the hole and technicians worked around the clock for 3 days.

  • Xavier

    This doesn’t involve an electric line but it is the best “true life” work accident story I know.

    Roy was a black guy I used to work with, big like the Hulk, and like many big men as nice and gentle as a kitten. We were good friends. He and Charlie (who will appear shortly) told me this story and it was corroborated by numerous other witnesses.

    Before coming to work for us building a golf course, Rod had worked for a local construction company. The last project he worked on was building a dam that was 80′ high and Roy was running a vibratory roller to compact the dirt – that’s done after every few feet of soil is added to keep the dam leak-free. It had rained the night before, the dam was slippery, and the roller slid down the side of the dam, turning over on the way. As it flipped, it threw Roy off and all the way to the base of the dam where he landed on his back in a puddle of mud and water. Roy couldn’t move in the mud as he watched the roller flip down the side of the dam and land upside down on top of him, squishing him into the mud. (If you aren’t familiar with these machines, they are about the size of a small car but weigh several tons)

    The other workers rushed to the scene and attached a chain to the roller; Charlie stretched out the arm of his track hoe and the chain was hooked to the bucket. He lifted the roller off of Roy a few feet and they could see that he was still alive. Then the chain broke, dropping the roller back onto Roy who was still stuck in the mud. Fortunately both times the cushioned seat had pressed on his chest and though he could barely breathe he was still alive. Charlie said, “Fuck it” and jammed the teeth of his bucket into the engine compartment of the roller as hard as he could and managed to raise it up enough for several men to grab Roy and pull him out. The mud didn’t want to let go and he lost his shoes but they finally got him out. Roy told me later that when the roller landed on him it had squeezed every drop of piss and shit out of him. The emergency helicopter was there by then and flew right over our local hospital, instead taking Roy to a large regional facility about a hundred miles away – sure they had a major trauma victim.

    Roy was diagnosed with only a slightly bruised heart and told to get a couple weeks bed rest at home.

    • Clink9

      One very lucky guy.

    • Blacksmith

      That mud saved his life.

      • Xavier

        Yep. Later, the owner of the construction company asked if Roy was going to sue him, and Roy said, “No, it was my fault.” That company was contracted to pave the roads in the development where we were building the golf course, and I met several of their employees who were there when Roy’s accident occurred. It really was a miracle. Twice, even.

  • simus1

    These workers were remarkably stoic and calm after the flash. Once heard a story about an incident where new massive high voltage switch gear inside its house size screen barrier was being (mis)tested close up and personal at a new power plant.
    There was a huge flash and bang and the unhurt (up to that point) miscreant ran straight into the perimeter screen at full speed, bounced back, then did it again. Just like a billy goat in a cartoon.

  • johnbrooks3

    We bought a used 19′ trailer in April when there was snow on the ground and parked it in our backyard. I used 2×6 planks for a sidewalk to it (so not to get snow and muck in the trailer). Come May I put away the planks and stepped onto the front metal steps from the grass and got a vibration. You know those weird 110v electrical vibrations in your arm.
    I instantly jumped backwards and went to the garage where the trailer was plugged into, and unplugged the unit.
    Carefully going back noticed there was no charge on the metal stairs. Plugged the unit back in and felt the vibrations/spasms.
    Long story short, thought it was the AC/DC converter in the unit and was going to replace that for $400. But called an electrician friend and we traced the wire back to our house. Someone had stapled through the 14/2 onto a floor beam and the ground wire was touching the (now can’t remember white or black) anyways causing both lines to be charged.
    All winter long I was insulated by the 2×6 until I removed them and was standing on the grass which created a ground.
    Interesting enough, all my power tools worked in the garage, as well as lights and garage door opener. They were naturally grounded at the boxes, but because the trailer was on tires, it needed a ground, which was me.
    I have the stapled cable hanging on the garage wall as a reminder of God’s protection.

    • Xavier

      I really don’t mean to monopolize this thread…

      About 2 months ago I decided to replace a leaking upstairs toilet supply valve – the one behind the commode, down near the floor. Our home is a 104 year old farmhouse and had electricity added in the 40s using 2 wires (no ground) inside braided metal sheathing.

      When I fixed the supply valve and turned the water back on, there was a major leak that poured onto the bed in the guest room, soaking the mattress and floor. I had to punch a hole in the ceiling to get to the leaking pipe and standing on an aluminum ladder with Queen Bee watching, I said, “Here’s the problem” and grabbed the copper pipe. Which, much to my surprise, was loaded with high octane 120V electrons. It shocked the crap out of me; I jumped, fell, and knocked over the purple PVC primer which spilled onto the vinyl floor, ruining it.

      Apparently there is a short somewhere that is electrifying the metal covering on the wiring and that is touching the copper pipes. The copper pipe was completely rotted out with multiple holes near where the wiring had lain on it – a plumber has since told me that electricity will do that to copper piping.

      I ripped out the copper pipe in the bathroom, installed PVC, and flipped off the circuit breaker. There’s no power in the bathroom now and I have to carry a flashlight to shower and use the toilet. I know fixing it is going to mean rewiring the entire house and since it was built in 1911, nothing is to code. There aren’t studs on 16″ centers, etc – it’s just rough hewn wood with some holes drilled in it to accommodate wires. Doing plumbing and electrical work here is a nightmare because generations of uneducated farmers have “made it work” using improper parts and methods. I will literally have to tear out walls, floors, and ceilings to replace the wiring. But it has to be done or we’re going to have a house fire.

      Like johnbrooks3, I saved a section of rotted copper as a reminder of what electricity can do.

      • simus1

        Just a word to the wise. In situations where a homeowner is having a go at rewiring an old house and code competent friends/ relatives are involved in helping him with advice and physical work. It is very important that the homeowner keeps a thorough record that he, and he alone, made all the wire connections to outlets etc. after making sure he correctly understood the procedure. The reason is that if there is a later incident, insurance companies like to look around for “helpers” to share any costs. If the homeowner has ironclad proof of sole responsibility, there is no incentive to go looking elsewhere and things move along as they should.

    • Xavier

      The staple would have had to be touching the black and shorting it to ground – the white is already bonded to ground in the circuit breaker box and wouldn’t have caused any problem.

  • Blacksmith

    DAYUM, they are most certainly lucky to be alive.

  • AlanUK

    I used to work in a nuclear power station. A long established method of work was to reduce the voltage of standard equipment wherever possible. Thus, handlamps were always 25 V and all equipment was 110 V. The later was actually +/- 55 V which made it virtually impossible for a worker to killed or seriously injured. Where higher voltages were essential (e.g. huge cooling water pumps) special care was taken with design, construction, maintenance, repair etc. etc.
    With these and many other actions we reduced the accident rate to the bare minimum. For example, how do you stop someone once in a blue moon tripping over their own feet or over a low curb marked with fluorescent paint?