£3.6m in fines after cleaner electrocuted on live rail
London and Southeastern (LSER) and Wetton Cleaning Services Limited (Wettons) have been fined £2.5m and £1.1m respectively in a prosecution brought by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), following the death of a cleaner three years ago.
Roger Lower, 46, who had been working for Wettons for three months, was electrocuted after falling on a 750-volt live rail during his shift at West Marina Depot, near Hastings in East Sussex on 24 May 2014. The depot is operated by LSER.
Lying on live rail
Guildford Crown Court was told that Mr Lower had arrived for his night shift a little after 10pm before starting work cleaning the sides of trains with colleagues. Later that night, he was found lying on the live rail and, although emergency services were called, they were unable to save his life.
Cleaners at West Marina were supposed to be protected from the live rail by ’Protection Boards’, but ORR Inspectors found that none of the four Boards present in this location was in use. Inspectors found all of them were leaning against buffers, away from the scene of the tragedy.
Wettons was employed by LSER to clean its trains and the West Marina depot was leased from Network Rail for that purpose. ORR’s investigation revealed health and safety failures by both Wettons and LSER, contravening the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
ORR Inspectors found a culture of cutting corners, which exposed workers to serious risks including:
- relying on paperwork rather than checking what was actually happening in the depot
- failing to ensure safe systems were in operation
- inadequate training and supervision.
Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Lower’s family and friends at this difficult time. The failings by Wettons and Southeastern were unacceptable and show the consequences of not abiding by health and safety, including the provisions of the law. As always, ORR is committed to monitoring compliance and taking tough enforcement action when necessary, as this tragic case demonstrates.”
Wettons was prosecuted under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. LSER was prosecuted under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. LSER and Wettons were ordered to pay costs of £162,000 each.