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June 10, 2010

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Dangerous boiler passed as fit by competent person

An inspector who failed to carry out proper checks on a railway locomotive boiler has been found guilty of health and safety breaches.

Anthony Sidney Reen, 74, trading as Steaming for Pleasure, was prosecuted following a complaint from the owner of a steam locomotive, who had bought the vehicle to restore. During the restoration, it was given the appearance of Ivor the Engine from the children’s TV programme, before being made available for hire.

Mr Reen inspected the locomotive’s boiler between November 2006 and April 2007, as it needed to pass several safety checks before it could enter service. He gave the boiler a clean bill of health and confirmed it was fit for service.

In August 2007, after being used by several heritage railways, the locomotive failed an examination by one of the hiring railways on account of defects with the boiler, which Mr Reen had not detected. Steaming for Pleasure made a further inspection and noted the faults, but claimed they were caused by use of the locomotive between May and August 2007, after Mr Reen’s original checks.

But an investigation by inspectors at the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) found that the boiler was already in a dangerous condition at the time Mr Reen had checked it, and that it should have undergone suitable repairs, followed by certification by a competent person, before being allowed to operate.

Subsequent examination of the defective areas of the boiler revealed that the firebox inner copper doorplate, which Mr Reen stated was 11.2-12.4mm thick, was, in fact, no thicker than 4.2mm in part. Some of the copper stayheads on the firebox side had lost up to 80 per cent of their ‘heads’, and there was significant erosion on the steel doorplate, which had not been reported. No proper examination had been carried out on the boiler’s fixtures and fittings.

It was Mr Reen’s responsibility as the competent person to ensure a high standard of inspection and not to expose others to potential risk, but he failed in this regard.

“This was a serious breach of health and safety legislation,” said the ORR’s deputy chief inspector, Caroline Wake. “Had the boiler failed in service then the staff of the hiring heritage railway and members of the public could have been placed at risk – possibly serious risk.

“The failings of Mr Reen – who was employed as an expert in order to verify the condition of the boiler – put everyone who came into contact with the locomotive at risk, and that is simply unacceptable.”

Appearing at Chichester Crown Court on 24 May, Mr Reen was found guilty of an offence under s3(2) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £750 and ordered to pay £1500 in costs.

In mitigation, his counsel asked the court to consider Mr Reen’s personal circumstances in setting the level of fine. He had no previous convictions.

Concluded deputy chief inspector Wake: “ORR will continue to work with the heritage sector to ensure that inspections by competent persons are undertaken to the highest standards.”

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