February 1, 2016
The electricity distribution company – UK Power Networks – has been fined £1 million for a fatal accident caused by negligence at Chelmsford Crown Court.
On 24th July 2012, four runners from the Saffron Striders running club were on a training run in Newport in Essex when they took a route through a cornfield adjacent to a frequently-used public footpath. As the runner at the head of the group – Dr James Kew – entered the cornfield, he ran into a cable carrying 11,000 volts that had become unsecured from its mast and was sagging at a height of 1.5 metres.
James (41) from Ashton in Essex was killed instantly, and several of his co-runners suffered burn injuries trying to retract him from the live cable. The inquest into his death heard that UK Power Networks were aware of sagging cable but, due to an “underestimation of the risk to human life” the company sent an engineer to investigate the fault rather than cut the power to the area.
The Health and Safety Executive conducted its own investigation into the fatal accident caused by negligence and prosecuted UK Power Networks for breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – finding that the company had “failed to fully assess the risk of injury posed to the public and control the risk”.
Last week at Chelmsford Crown Court, the company pleaded guilty to the charges, and was fined £1 million for the fatal accident caused by negligence. Speaking after the verdict of the court had been announced, HSE inspector Paul Carter said: “Dr Kew’s family remains completely devastated by their loss and witnesses to this incident have suffered severe trauma and stress-related illness. The incident was entirely preventable”.
He added: “Distribution network operators have an absolute duty to ensure that they do everything reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of members of the public who may be put at risk by the operation of their undertakings. In this tragic case, the death of Dr James Kew could have been prevented by immediate remote de-energisation of the power network which the circumstances on that evening clearly called for.”