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MAJOR POWER COMPANY FINED OVER BLAST DEATH

Work on voltage regulator triggered fatal explosion and fire

UK Power Networks (Operations) Ltd, which supplies power to the East of England, London and the South East, has been ordered to pay £420,000 in fines and prosecution costs after electrical engineer John Higgins died at an electrical substation in Chelmsford on 7 May 2008

Mr Higgins was working on a device for manually adjusting voltage ratios, known as a transformer tap changer, when the device exploded. He died at the scene and the incident sparked a major fire at the substation. The incident caused the ‘black out’ of a large part of Chelmsford, including a nearby Hospital.

HSE investigators found that UK Power Networks failed to properly assess work with tap changers and devise procedures for the work. The company also failed to adequately train employees for carrying out this task.

Following the incident the company has since introduced revised procedures to safeguard staff.

Death could have been avoided by proper assessment

UK Power Networks (Operations) Limited, of Southwark Bridge Road, London, was fined £275,000 with £145,000 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

After sentencing HSE Inspector Steven Gill said:

“John Higgins lost his life in tragic circumstances that could have been avoided had this activity had been properly assessed and managed by UK Power Networks.

His death illustrates how dangerous work on or near electrical distribution networks can be, and how imperative it is that employers – large or small – ensure that all activities involving high voltage electrical equipment are properly assessed and that safe systems of work in place.

There is no room for error or complacency when working with high voltage equipment.”

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