Worker's Burns Cost Firms £600,000

Railway accident


A railway accident in which a worker was seriously injured after suffering a shock from a 25,000-volt overhead power line has led to three railway companies being fined a total of £600,000.

Balfour Beatty, GT Railway Maintenance and Elec-Track pleaded guilty to putting employees' safety at risk in a hearing before Coventry Crown Court. They were each fined £200,000, and Balfour and GT were ordered to pay £42,000 in costs.

The incident took place on July 1, 2003 when work was being carried out overnight to upgrade the West Coast Main Line near Birmingham. Richard McBride, an employee of subcontractor Elec-Track, was electrocuted as his elevated basket came within 10ft of the line. He received 30% burns and later had to have his right leg amputated below the knee. Two other workers jumped clear of the basket, suffering injuries.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), which brought the prosecution, said the companies should have implemented a safe system of work, which would have ensured the line had been isolated.

Allan Spence, the ORR's deputy chief inspector of railways, said: "With such a high-risk activity, there should have been a robust permit-to-work system confirming it was safe to start work. Instead, the system these companies used was a short cut.

"That short cut tragically led to confusion and, in turn, to the awful burn injuries."

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David Urpeth from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "This is yet another example of an industrial accident that could and should have been avoided.

"Employers and others responsible for workers safety have a duty to carry out a risk assessment and then implement a safe system of work based upon the results, with the aim of preventing injury or death from work accidents.

"Sadly, in this case, it appears proper procedures were not followed.

"I represent many workers who have suffered their injuries in work accidents where employers have failed in their duties towards them."