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December 16, 2010

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BT to appeal against £300k fine for ladder fatality

British Telecom has been fined £300,000 for failing to create a safe system-of-work for an employee who fell to his death while carrying out installation work.

Power construction engineer David Askew, 52, was installing distribution boards and running cabling at London’s Canonbury Telephone Exchange, when the incident took place, on 27 October 2006.

During the work he fell more than four metres from a nine-step ladder and suffered serious head injuries. He died in hospital 18 days later. The HSE’s investigation found that the work had not been properly planned and the ladder was not tall enough for Mr Askew to reach the area of work without stretching from the top rung. Inspectors also found that the ladder had not been subjected to an annual inspection, which contravened BT’s own health and safety policy.

HSE inspector Nicola Maisuria revealed the incident could have been avoided if Mr Askew had been provided with suitable equipment for working at height, such as a podium step, or mini tower scaffold.

She said: “The fact that this incident was entirely avoidable makes Mr Askew’s death all the more tragic. The dangers posed by work at height are well known, yet BT failed to create the conditions to ensure this task was carried out safely and the appropriate access equipment was used. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that work at height is properly planned and organised.”

BT appeared at Southwark Crown Court on 15 December and was found guilty of breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. In addition to the fine it was ordered to pay costs of £196,150.

In mitigation, BT said it now notes down on planning documents what height work will be carried out at so it can create a safe system of work.

Following the hearing, BT stated that it intends to appeal against the conviction. A spokesperson said:  “Four years on from the accident and, despite a thorough investigation by the HSE and BT, it is still unclear how David, a well-trained engineer with 25 year’s experience, fell from the step-ladder, as there were no witnesses.

“BT is appealing the conviction on several grounds. Notwithstanding this appeal, BT remains committed to achieving the highest standards of health and safety in its business and working to ensure that no one is harmed in the work they undertake for BT.”

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13 years ago

useful information