British Telecom (BT) has been fined £500,000 after an engineer fell seven metres, while fixing a telephone fault in the roof void of a residential block of flats in Tower Hamlets, East London. The engineer was working alone when he lost his balance and fell through a ceiling, landing in a concrete stairwell, and sustaining a broken back and his breaking both ankles.
This prosecution follows previous prosecutions last month for two further falls from people working at height costing a further £600,000 in fines.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred in May 2011 found there were a number of management failures by BT, including inadequate planning of work taking place near fragile surfaces and checking that it was carried out safely.
BT was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act which states – It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees. As a result of their failure, they were fined a total of £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £98,913.51.
In sentencing the trial judge criticised BT for attempting to blame its own engineers for the incident and described their approach as “not necessary, misplaced, and unfortunate”.
HSE inspector Kevin Smith said: “There were a number of failures of health and safety management by BT which related to planning the work, supervision, and checking it was being carried out safely. Work at height needs to be properly planned, and this incident could have been prevented.”