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Essex: UK Power Networks told to pay £420,000 after death of Colchester-based worker John Higgins

17:11 04 January 2013

The aftermath of an explosion at a substation in Chelmsford, which killed electrical engineer John Higgins

The aftermath of an explosion at a substation in Chelmsford, which killed electrical engineer John Higgins

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A POWER supplier has today been ordered to pay £420,000 after a worker died following an explosion at a substation in Essex.

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John Higgins, a 59-year-old electrical engineer from Colchester, died after the incident at a site in Bishop Hall Lane, Chelmsford, on May 7, 2008.

UK Power Networks was fined £275,000 - and order to pay £145,000 in prosecution costs - after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard today Mr Higgins died after a device he was working on for manually adjusting voltage ratios, known as a transformer tap changer, exploded.

Steven Gill, an inspector at the Health and Safety Executive, said: “John Higgins lost his life in tragic circumstances that could have been avoided had this activity had 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 or 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.”

A spokeswoman for UK Power Network said: “UK Power Networks deeply regrets the death of John Higgins who died in a work-related accident on May 7, 2008. By our guilty plea entered at the earliest opportunity last year we acknowledged our responsibilities for what tragically happened on that day.

“We reiterate our condolences to John’s wife and children, wider family and friends. He was a well-liked and respected colleague with 35 years of valued service. The health and safety of our staff and everyone affected by our work activities, is of paramount importance to UK Power Networks. We strive to ensure all our workers return home from work safely, every day.

“EDF Energy Networks, which owned the electricity network until October 2010, launched its own comprehensive investigation into the incident at the time. Since the company’s change of ownership, UK Power Networks has owned and run the electricity networks across the East of England, South East and London. We have fully co-operated with investigations carried out by the Health and Safety Executive.”

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1 comment

  • Obviously, this incident is disgraceful and a clear breach of Health & Safety. This is a significant fine but this is the problem - UK Power networks actually receives its funding from customers like me. So guess what - we are paying the fine. My point is that what disciplinary action was taken against managers within EDFUK Power Networks? Where is the corporate responsibilty? The EADT article is unclear but I am not sure that fining these corporate organisations is the answer for this tragic and avoidable accident.

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