Electricity supplier fined £900k for worker death

An electricity supplier has been fined £900,000 after safety law failings led to a worker’s death.

The employee was up a ladder trimming plants away from power lines. It is believed he fell some 6 metres after accidentally cutting through his work positioning strap.

The court heard that the plant clearing was not a short job and that a ladder was unsuitable for the task. The judge said the employer should have provided a mobile elevated work platform and supervised the clearing.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found the work at height had not been:

  • properly planned
  • appropriately supervised
  • carried out in a safe manner.

The HSE commented, “Had these steps been taken, we may not have had this tragic outcome”.

Ivy growing on electricity conductors had been a problem for some years. A required plant clearing survey had been done weeks before the incident but none of this information was passed on to workers and they weren’t told how to work.

Fine had to be “felt”

Electricity North West Limited was found guilty of breaking the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £900,000 with costs to be decided at a later hearing.

The judge said the seriousness of the case meant that the size of the fine had to be “felt” by the company and its shareholders.

The judge added that the need to plan for work is completely obvious and known. He noted there had for a long time been a “systemic failure” in the company’s system for planning for work at height.

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