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October 27, 2009

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Two firms given combined fines of GBP 1million after rail deaths

Network Rail and engineering firm Carillion have been handed massive fines following the death of two railway maintenance workers.

In July, SHP reported that David Pennington, 47, and Martin Oates, 38, died after a road-rail vehicle (RRV) driven by David Jones reversed into them at speed as they worked to complete a rail drop to a site (between Hednesford and Cannock Stations in Staffordshire) where new track was being laid on 28 September 2004.

Stafford Crown Court heard that new sets of continuously-welded 216-ft-long rails were being delivered on rail delivery trains (RDT) — managed by Network Rail — by a five-man team. The RRV, which was provided by Carillion Rail, was reversing at 15mph but should have been moving at walking pace, with a guide by its side.

After a six-week trial the court found Jones, 48, John Brady, 44, who was marshalling Jones at the time of the incident, and Wayne Brigden, 29, a senior site supervisor employed by Carillion Rail, guilty of failing to take reasonable care of the health and safety of themselves and others under s7 of the HSWA 1974.

Sentencing took place at Stafford Crown Court on 26 October. Network Rail pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £666,666 and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs. Carillion pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) and 3(1) of the same Act and was fined £444,444 and £50,000 in costs.

Each of the individual workers involved was fined £3000, but Brady and Jones had their fines reduced to £750 owing to a lack of means, and no costs were awarded against them.

In mitigation, Network Rail said it has modified its method of work following the incident, and has prohibited RRV’s and RDT’s from working within close proximity. A spokesman for Network Rail said: “This was a very tragic incident and our thoughts remain with the families of the deceased. Fortunately incidents such as this are very rare on Britain’s railways. Safety is Network Rail’s number one priority and we take this responsibility very seriously as we continue to make the countries railways ever safer.”

In a statement Carillion said: “Our prime concern remains the health and safety and well being of all our employees, sub-contractors and anyone who may be affected by our activities.
“Carillion recognises that first class health and safety standards are fundamental to our business and we remain committed to reinforcing this across all our businesses.”

HM Inspector of Railways Umar Ali, part of the team at the Office of Rail Regulation that investigated the fatalities, said: “The fines reflect the seriousness of this incident. If an acceptable method of work had been in place, and properly communicated between the various companies, then this incident could easily have been avoided.”

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