Head of Content - SHP and Safety & Health Expo, UBM

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Charlotte Geoghegan is Head of Content for UBM’s Protection & Management portfolio, which includes SHP, Safety & Health Expo, IFSEC, FIREX, Facilities Show and Field Service Management Expo.

April 24, 2017

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£1.8m fine after lone worker drowns in “accident waiting to happen”

South West Water have been fined £1.8 million following the death of lone worker, Robert Geach, who drowned in a filtration tank. It was an “accident waiting to happen” according to the judge sitting at Truro Crown Court on Friday 21st April 2017.

Father-of two, Robert Geach, died in December 2013. He was working to unblock a filter at the Falmouth Water Treatment Works and fell though a hole into 6.5ft of water.

He had activated the company’s lone worker alarm system but it wasn’t until he failed to respond to a call, some 90 minutes later, that someone was sent to investigate and found him dead.

The judge pointed out that “no correct risk assessment for the procedure had been done”. He also stated that South West Water had been made aware of the dangers of falling into tanks “on a number of occasions”.

In 2009 a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector raised concerns about railing heights, trip hazards and working alone.

Since Robert Geach’s death South West Water have apparently made changes to lone working procedures.

Managing Director of South West Water, Dr Stephen Bird, said “South West Water has tried to ensure it learns all that is can from this incident”.

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Robert GwytherNicole VazquezRay RappHealth and Safety News Headlines: 25th April | Callidus Health & SafetyKarl Spencer Recent comment authors
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Karl Spencer
Karl Spencer

South West Water has tried to ensure it learns all that is can from this incident”. Too little too late. All accidents are preventable, but Directors and Board members need to engage more and ensure everything practicable is being done. Ignorance is not bliss it’s ignorance. Karl Spencer a MD who has learnt the hard way and is campaigning to prevent all accidents

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Health and Safety News Headlines: 25th April | Callidus Health & Safety

[…] South West Water have been fined £1.8 million following the death of lone worker, Robert Geach, who drowned in a filtration tank. It was an “accident waiting to happen. Read more – SHP Online […]

Ray Rapp
Ray Rapp

£1.8 million – I’m sure they are trying to learn all they can from this incident.

I recall some years ago working on a contract for a major water provider who provided a contractor safety book. Sadly a member of staff died because staff were not expected to follow the same rigorous safety procedures that contractors were obliged to follow. I bet they do now.

Nicole Vazquez
Nicole Vazquez

This very sad case just goes to show why Lone Working needs to be included in risk assessments wherever it may have an impact on safety. And why any lone worker system or procedures put in place to control the risks need to be tested to ensure they do what they are supposed to do – before an incident occurs.
Let’s hope other organisations sit up and take notice…

Robert Gwyther
Robert Gwyther

South West Water had lone working procedures in place from circa 1995, subject to local risk assessment for every visit, Board level risk assessment and audit every year, medical fitness checks for lone workers, “stop the job” entitlements for workers, contractors and safety representatives, continual upgrade of available technology (alarms etc), massive capital investment (compared to other organisations) and regular practice via the Control Room. So the question is: why did that whither away? The very hardest element of health and safety is SUSTAINING the control measures which have been implemented. For it to simply be said “there was no… Read more »