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LADDER UNSUITABLE FOR IVY CLEARING TASK

Electricity supplier fined £900,000 after linesman ladder fall

Electricity North West Ltd has been fined £900,000 after a workman died after falling 6m whilst carrying out the routine maintenance of power lines in November 2013.

Workman Mr John Flowers, aged 63, was an experienced linesman. He climbed a ladder resting against a wood pole in order to trim ivy away from the power lines. Whilst undertaking this task it is believed Mr Flowers cut through his work positioning strap and fell to his death.

Preston Crown Court heard that the work of trimming the ivy from the pole was not identified as short duration work unsuitable to be undertaken working from a ladder. The company failed to properly plan the work; no provision was made for the use of a mobile elevated work platform to undertake the task.

Company may appeal verdict

HSE brought three charges relating to (i) failure to risk assess (ii) failure to manage work at height, and (iii) failure to ensure the safety of employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The company was found not guilty of charges relating to failure to risk assess and failure to ensure the safety of its employees.  A spokesperson said the company

“Has been exonerated in respect of its underlying health and safety management but was found guilty of a technical failing to adequately manage work at height. We are reflecting the sentence and considering options, which may include an appeal against the single guilty verdict.”

Electricity North West Chief Executive Peter Emery said:

“John was a valued colleague with over 30 years’ service to the Company. His death was a tragic loss to his family and to his colleagues. We were devastated by his loss.

Working at height with electricity brings unique risk and safety is a continuous challenge. In finding us not guilty on two charges, the jury recognised the effectiveness of our risk assessment process and our compliance with the Health and Safety at Work Act through our safe systems of work.

We’ll continue to work hard to make the job John loved as safe as possible.

Lack of information on how work to be carried out

The ivy growing on electricity conductors was first identified some five years before the accident and then again in June 2013.

A survey of the vegetation clearance work required was undertaken six weeks prior to the incident.  However none of this information was given to linesman who were not provided with information on how the work was to 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, was fined £900,000 with costs to be agreed at a later date.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Rose Leese-Weller said after the hearing:

“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.”

 

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