Two telecommunications engineers have been seriously injured in separate falls from height while working on the same job, a court has heard.
The pair’s employer, British Telecommunication PLC, has been fined a total of £600,000 and ordered to pay £60,000 in costs after admitting it breached the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The accidents at work happened, Teesside Crown Court heard, at BT’s Darlington Automatic Telephone Exchange in April 2010.
‘First incident not properly investigated’
The court heard one of the men had fallen while he was on a stepladder installing a cable along a ceiling level cable tray. He had been working near the lighting system and fell after feeling a pain in his arm. He was taken to hospital with serious back and skull injuries.
The work had been allowed to continue later in the day without the incident being properly investigated, the court was told. The second engineer suffered multiple fractures to his skull and spine when he fell from a different ladder.
Both of the engineers were left with their sense of taste and smell affected. The first, who returned to work for BT a year later, needed physiotherapy for a number of years after the accident. The second, was left blind in one eye and suffering from long-term memory problems.
The court heard the investigation had concluded it was likely that the men had both received electric shocks, causing them to fall.
‘Accident was avoidable’
A Health and Safety Executive investigation established the work hadn’t been properly planned or assessed. It also showed the electrical lighting system was poorly constructed and hadn’t been properly tested or maintained, leaving workers exposed to live metal parts.
HSE inspector Laura Lyons said employers have a duty to make sure that work carried out at height and/or close to electrical systems is properly planned and assessed.
The accidents could have been avoided, she added, had BT provided safe working systems and made sure that the electrical systems were properly constructed, tested and maintained.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: June 17, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown