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UK Power Networks told to pay over £420,000 following death of employee in explosion

By GazetteChrisR  |  Posted: January 04, 2013

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A POWER company has been ordered to pay £420,000 in fines and costs following the death of an employee in an explosion.

Engineer John Higgins, 59, was killed when a device he was working on known as a transformer tap charger exploded, causing a fire at an electrical substation in Bishops Hall Lane, Chelmsford.

The alarm was raised by staff at the nearby Anglia Ruskin University, however Mr Higgins, from Colchester, died at the scene.

He had been just months away from taking early retirement.

A large part of Chelmsford, including Broomfield Hospital, experienced a power cut following the blast, which took place on May 7, 2008.

The incident was subsequently investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The probe found that Mr Higgins' employer UK Power Networks had failed to properly assess work with tap changers and to devise procedures for carrying out the work.

Investigators also found that the firm had failed to adequately train employees to work on these devices.
UK Power Networks has since introduced revised procedures to safeguard staff.

At Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday, UK Power Networks (Operations) Ltd, which supplies power to the East of England, London and the South East, was fined £275,000 with £145,000 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Following the sentencing, HSE Inspector Steven Gill said: "John Higgins lost his life in tragic circumstances that could have been avoided had this activity been properly assessed and managed by UK Power Networks.
"His death illustrates how dangerous work on or near electrical distribution networks can be, and how imperative it is that employers - large and small - ensure that all activities involving high voltage electrical equipment are properly assessed and that safe systems of work in place.

"There is no room for error or complacency when working with high voltage equipment."

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