The energy giant, RWE npower and contractor AMEC Group Ltd must pay a total of £510,000 after a maintenance worker fell to his death at a South Wales power station. The firms were sentenced over the incident that an saw agency worker fall around 12 metres through an unprotected opening in a platform 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.The man 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.As the natural light faded, electric lights were turned to face those doing the grinding work which left the top of the pit in near darkness. The man fell through the opening in the walkway to the floor below. He died of multiple injuries to his chest and pelvis.
An investigation by the HSE showed that a large opening in the walkway was left unprotected after the floor gratings had been removed, and inadequate precautions had been taken to protect people working near it. We have to ask why were such obvious risks missed by two large companies who should have access to competent health and safety people?
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 his death. Again how can this happen; should not both companies have been trying to ensure the safety of all that were involved in the works irrespective of who they worked for.
RWE npower Plc, of Swindon, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. At Cardiff Crown Court, they were fined £250,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 costs.
The principal contractors, 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.
Clearly if simple steps had been taken then this tragic accident would have been avoided and it shows the benefits of apportioning reasonable resources to getting it right up front. As the HSE Inspector prosecuting the case commented that this tragic case highlights the consequences of failing to do something as simple as adding protection to an opening in a walkway. This awful incident could so easily have been prevented had the correct safety measures been taken.
Properly planning the task, undertaking a credible risk assessment and identifying what effective controls where needed would have saved a life and help avoid unnecessary costs to both companies.
This case demonstrates that where two parties are involved it is critical that suitable risk assessment is undertaken and that all parties understand who is responsible for controlling the risks.
We urge you to look at where they use contractors in your business and consider are you confident that safe working is effectively managed? If you need independent advice or a review undertaken why not contact us for a chat.