Massive fine for electricity supplier after worker's fatal fall

Electricity North West Ltd has been fined £900,000 after a worker died following a six metre fall while carrying out routine maintenance on power lines.
Electrical-worker

On the 22 November 2013, 63 year old John Flowers, an experienced linesman, climbed a ladder resting against a wood pole to trim ivy away from power lines. It is believed that Mr Flowers accidentally cut through his work positioning strap and fell to his death.

Preston Crown Court heard that working from a ladder is only permitted for short duration work, and the task in question was not identified as such. Therefore a mobile elevated work platform should have been provided.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the work had not been properly planned. The ivy growing onto the electricity conductors was first identified some five years before the accident and then again in June 2013. A survey of the required vegetation clearance work had been undertaken six weeks prior to the incident, but none of the survey information was provided to any of the linesman, and they had not been instructed on how the work should be carried out.

Electricity North West Limited of 304 Bridgewater Place, Birchwood Park, Warrington was found guilty of breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and fined £900,000 with costs to be agreed at a later date.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Rose Leese-Weller said: “Electricity North West failed to ensure that working at height was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner that was safe. Had these steps been taken we may not have had this tragic outcome.”

Phoenix comments:

In 2016 26% of all fatalities in the workplace were caused by falls from height. These tragic deaths could have been avoided with effective risk management and the correct choice of access equipment. The Working at Heights Regulations stipulate the hierarchy of control via three simple steps:

  • Avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so
  • Where work at height cannot be avoided, prevent falls using either an existing place of work that is already safe or the right type of equipment
  • Minimise the distance and consequences of a fall by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated.

Managing the considerable risks associated with work at height by putting sensible and proportionate measures in place is an important part of working safely.