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ENERGY CLIENT AND MAJOR CONTRACTOR FINED £1/2M

Confusion and misunderstanding between parties at time of fatal incident

RWE npower and AMEC Group Ltd have been ordered to pay over £1/2 million after a maintenance worker fell to his death at a South Wales power station. On 10th June 2010 Christopher Booker fell some 12m through a platform opening at Aberthaw Power Station in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Cardiff Crown Court heard that work was being carried out to insert equipment into a large deep pit in the water cooling system to hold back the seawater when the tide rose. Sections of the floor gratings at the top of the pit had been removed to allow the work to proceed.

Mr Booker was working with eight other workers who had been called in to carry out urgent modification work on the equipment in order to ensure an effective seal of the pit.

Pit opening left in darkness

The unguarded opening through which Mr Booker fell

As the evening light faded the electric lights were turned to face those undertaking the grinding work. This left the area at the top of the pit in near darkness and Mr Booker fell through the walkway opening to the floor below. He died of multiple injuries to his chest and pelvis.

HSE investigators revealed that the large opening in the walkway was left unprotected after the floor gratings had been removed without adequate precautions to protect people working nearby.

The investigation also identified that there was confusion and misunderstanding between RWE npower and principal contractor AMEC Group Ltd as to who was responsible for controlling the work at the time of the incident.

Inadequate planning and poor choice of controls

RWE npower Plc, of Swindon, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Today at Cardiff Crown Court, they were fined £250,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 costs.

Principal contractor, AMEC Group Ltd, of Knutsford, Cheshire, pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 11(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. They were fined £200,000 with costs of £30,000.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Caroline Bird said:

“This tragic case highlights the consequences of failing to do something as simple as adding protection to an opening in a walkway.

Inadequate planning and a poor choice of safety control measures meant that a very obvious hazard remained.

Both companies had a duty of care to Mr Booker that they failed to meet – with catastrophic consequences. This awful incident could so easily have been prevented had the correct safety measures been taken.

Employers have a duty to manage the risk of falls from height, including providing protection around the edge of openings. It is completely unacceptable this sort of risk was not managed.”

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