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 costs after an employee died while working at one of its Essex sites.
An electrical engineer was killed at an electrical substation in Bishops Hall Lane in Chelmsford, when a device he was working on for manually adjusting voltage ratios, known as a transformer tap changer, exploded.
Chelmsford Crown Court heard that the explosion caused a fire at the substation. The man died at the scene despite the arrival of Essex Fire and Rescue within minutes of the alarm being raised by staff from nearby Anglia Ruskin University.
An investigation by the HSE found that UK Power Networks had failed to properly assess work with tap changers and to devise procedures for the work. It had also failed to adequately train employees for carrying out this task. UK Power Networks has since introduced revised procedures to safeguard staff.
You would have thought that a power network operator such as this would have had robust systems and procedures in place, wouldn`t you? It amazes us how many of the larger businesses seem to miss the basics such as carrying out risk assessments, providing safe systems of work, and training people to these. Hopefully this could not happen in your business and where you have high risk tasks undertaken you have the correct systems of work in place (including a Permit to Work system).
UK Power Networks (Operations) Limited, of 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 commented that a man lost his life in tragic circumstances that could have been avoided had this activity been properly assessed and managed by UK Power Networks.
This death clearly illustrates how dangerous work on or near electrical distribution networks can be, and the importance of ensuring risks are properly assessed by competent persons. When anyone is involved with activities involving high voltage electrical equipment there is no room for error or complacency and suitable safe systems of work must be in place and be strictly followed.