Editor, UBM

June 1, 2016

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BT fined £600,000 after two workers injured

British Telecommunications PLC has been fined £600,000 after two employees were seriously injured in falls from height.

Teesside Crown Court heard how two British Telecommunications (BT) Open Reach engineers had been given a job at BT’s Darlington Automatic Telephone Exchange.

 One of the engineers was installing a cable through a hole on the first floor along a ceiling level cable tray to the main distribution frame on the ground floor. He was working on a stepladder in amongst the lighting system, when he felt a pain in his right arm and fell from the step ladder. He was taken to hospital with head and back injuries.

An HSE investigation found that the accident wasn’t properly investigated and later in the day the work was allowed to continue.

The second engineer continued with the work himself from a different ladder, he also fell to the ground and was taken to hospital with serious skull and back injuries.

A year after the accident, the first engineer returned to work for BT. However he had lost his sense of smell and taste and required physiotherapy for a number of years.

The second engineer received serious multiple fractures of the skull and spine, his sense of smell and taste had been affected, he was blinded in one eye, and has long term memory problems.

The HSE investigations into both incidents, which occurred on 1st April 2010, found that the work had not been properly assessed or planned, despite workers being exposed to such serious risks as working at height close to an electrical system.

Serious failings were also found within the electrical lighting system in that area, where workers were exposed to live metal parts, some at 240 volts. The system was poorly constructed and had not been properly maintained or tested. It is most likely that both engineers received electric shocks which threw them from the ladders.

British Telecommunication PLC, of Newgate Street, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay costs of £60,000.

HSE inspector Laura Lyons said after the hearing: “Work at height and working close to electrical systems needs to be properly assessed and planned so that adequate controls can be put in place.  This duty rests firmly with the employer. These life changing incidents could have been avoided if BT had provided safe systems of work and ensured that the electrical systems were properly constructed, maintained and tested.”

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Sarah Wild
Sarah Wild
6 years ago

I find it rather interesting that BT were only fined £600,000 for 2 significant similar accidents,when Scottish Power were also recently fined £1.75M for an accident involving only 1 person, when it seems that both are similar sized companies. Is this not rather disproportionate in view of the recent changes to the Sentencing Guidelines? The Conoco Phillips case did not injure anyone and their fine was much larger too – does the court location have anything to do with this I wonder?

Ian Malone
Ian Malone
5 years ago

No mention of the people who installed the poor electrics , or the name of the person who planned the new work , let alone the name of the individual who accepted the original doggy electrics or changes that made them dangerous !!