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MAJOR CONTRACTOR PLEADS CLIENT ‘PRESSURE’

Poorly operated permit to work systems claimed life of jointer

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Ltd (BBES) and Norland Managed Services Ltd (NMS) have been sentenced for safety failings after Martin Walton, aged 27, from Cleveland was electrocuted on 16 October 2010 during work at a data centre in Middlesex.

BBES was contracted to carry out multi-million pound infrastructure upgrade works at the data centre in Hounslow, while Norland Managed Services Ltd (NMS) were already contracted to provide mechanical and electrical maintenance and had effective control of the site.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that new power distribution units were to be installed. The existing power supply was under the control of NMS whilst the new supply was under the control of BBES.

Connection of the first three units was scheduled to take place over the weekend of 16th to 18th October 2010. Last minute modifications to the units required them to be tested with two live supplies to ensure they functioned correctly before being connected to the existing infrastructure.

The first unit was successfully modified, tested and connected to the existing infrastructure. However, during installation of the second unit Martin Walton (a cable jointer employed by Integrated Cable Services Ltd) was electrocuted when his forehead made contact with the 415V live terminals of the unit.

“Complete breakdown” of health and safety management

During the sentencing hearing and trial HSE told the court that the underlying cause of the incident was “a succession of failures indicative of the complete breakdown of BBES’s management of health and safety in relation to this project” particularly the breakdown of communication.

NMS had no role in the construction project, however, the relevant aspect of their undertaking was management of the impact of the construction project on the existing operational infrastructure under their control.

NMS issued a permit-to-work to Martin Walton allowing him to reroute the existing site power supply through the new distribution unit, in the knowledge it had the potential to receive a supply from a source not under their control and without confirming that the other supply was isolated.

Pressure from “difficult and demanding client”

Mechanical and electrical installation contractor, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Ltd of Ainslie Road, Hillington Park, Glasgow, admitted breaches of Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £280,000 in total (£140,000 for each breach) with £42,240 costs.

Facilities management company, Norland Managed Services Ltd, of Southwark Street, London was found guilty after an earlier trial of breaching 3(1) of the Health and Safety Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £100,000 with £106,670 costs.

Speaking after the sentencing, HSE inspector Loraine Charles said:

“Martin Walton’s death, which had a truly devastating effect on his family and friends, was entirely preventable.

Although BBES claimed to have been under pressure from a difficult and demanding client, they cannot be excused for having lost sight of the need for the effective control of risks arising from the work being carried out under their control at this data centre.

Permit to work systems were operated poorly or not at all. Not one person involved in the work at the time of the accident had an accurate overall understanding of the work being carried out and, as a consequence, Martin Walton and others were unknowingly working in the vicinity of exposed live electrical terminals.

NMS, who were operating an effective permit to work system in relation to the equipment under their own control, made no effort to ensure that the work they permitted did not create risk at the point at which it interacted with equipment under BBES control.”

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