UK Power Networks to pay �519,000 after Dickleburgh electrician death

A major utilities company has been ordered to pay more than �519,000 in fines and costs for failings which led to the electrocution and death of a worker in Diss in 2007.

UK Power Networks was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failings which led to the death of Jonathan Crosby, a 45 year-old father-of-four from Dickleburgh.

The electricity giant, which handles electricity supply for the south and east of England as well as London, was ordered to pay a �300,000 fine and also pay costs of �219,352, following a two-day hearing at Norwich Crown Court.

Mr Crosby, who had worked for the company for 26 years, was electrocuted while working on power lines on Sawmills Road, Diss, on the morning of November 9, 2007.

The court heard that a failure to remove vital fuses and to use warning signs when removing a transformer from a pole to replace it with a more powerful model broke company policy on the day in question.

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These failings meant that several wires thought to be safe to touch were actually live and carrying 430 volts, leading to Mr Crosby's electrocution.

Judge Peter Jacobs accepted the company had a good safety record, but said that the work they carried out was very dangerous.

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'This is an industry in which any failure to comply with procedures by employees is potentially fatal and this is one of those industries which requires positive checks to be made. In this case an assumption was made by the two linesmen that the fuses had been removed. One can only assume that one depended upon the other. In reality a simple further check would have revealed they were not.'

He added: 'There must be a procedure which requires a positive assertion to be made by both linesmen that one of them has specifically removed the fuses and by the supervisor that he has in fact checked personally that it has been done so. In addition it surely must always be the case that a check should be made as to whether or not a cable being worked upon remains live.'

However he accepted that the company, in its defence, pointed out that there was a commitment to health and safety from the top of the management throughout and no less than 165,000 operations took place each year without incident.

Judge Jacobs said that on this occasion the company fell significantly short of the standards and there were operational and organisational failures.

'As I have repeatedly emphasised the work being done is very dangerous work and the merest contact with high voltages is likely to result in either electrocution or fall from heights.'

He added that the company had co-operated with the investigation and had made efforts to remedy the defects.

The company is expected to pay the costs and fine in 28 days.

A spokesman for UK Power Networks said: 'UK Power Networks deeply regrets Jon's tragic death, which occurred in a work-related incident on November 9, 2007. At his inquest in April 2010, the verdict was accidental death. We reiterate our condolences to Jon's family, friends and colleagues. He was well-liked and respected with more than 22 years' valued service.'

'In November 2007 immediate steps were taken to suspend working on live electrical equipment until the investigation had been completed and all staff involved in similar work had been retrained. The extensive programme of improvements which was in place, was continued and reinforced.'

'Since the incident we have co-operated fully in the formal investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, as they acknowledged in Court today. We have a very good safety record which we wish to maintain and build on in future.'

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