Prosecutions

Metro operator fined £1.5m after worker electrocuted by live wire

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A worker who died at a Metro train depot in South Gosforth had been previously seriously injured while working for the same firm, a court heard.


Tyne and Wear Metro operator Nexus was fined £1.5 million after worker John Bell was fatally electrocuted while carrying out maintenance work on high voltage overhead cables.

He died after he came into contact with a wire he believed had been isolated from the power supply, but which was in fact live.

Metro operator Nexus were fined £1.5 million and ordered to pay £172,390.98 in costs. Photograph: ORR

Industry regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), investigating, found that Nexus had failed to learn lessons. Safety critical procedures had been ignored and some continued for a substantial period after Mr Bell’s death in July 2014, putting people at risk for a ‘substantial period thereafter’ it said.

Nexus failed to provide appropriate instructions for staff to prevent injury before they commenced work. Work was also allowed to take place without safety critical permits; and serious inadequacies in policy documents covering ‘live line working’ failed to include a requirement for staff to test all electrical wires before carrying out work.

Mr Bell suffered serious head and chest injuries and was off work for more than a year when he was last injured working on overhead line equipment on 3 February 2002. Nexus was fined £16,000 for that breach of section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Commenting on the case, Ian Prosser CBE, HM Chief Inspector of Railways at ORR, said: “Nexus’ working practices were poor and continued so for a long time. This meant Nexus did not have the right measures in place to assess whether the Metro was being maintained safely.

“It is a fundamental safety requirement to test electrical equipment before any work takes place, but the failure to review and monitor safety critical systems meant that lessons were not learned."

Nexus were fined £1.5 million and ordered to pay £172,390.98 in costs at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Crown Court on Friday 23 April. 

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