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Electricity North West has been fined following the death of a worker who was just two years away from retirement age.

The utility firm was found guilty of a breach of the work at height regulations, although the court cleared the company of another charge.

John Flowers had been working from an electricity pole, clearing ivy and cutting back tree branches obstructing the pole. However, he accidentally cut through a lanyard attached to his harness, causing him to fall about six metres.

At Preston Crown Court, Electricity North West was found guilty of failing to correctly plan and supervise the work. Judge Robert Altham stated that the company had failed over a long period of time to plan for working at height. The judge added that the need to do so was well known and obvious, pointing out that it was common knowledge that a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) should have been in use, to keep the employee safe while working.

In view of his comments, the judge proceeded to fine the company £900,000 – an amount that would be felt by the company and its shareholders. Flowers had not taken a single day’s sick leave in the last 30 years, and had enjoyed his job so much, that he had been considering working an extra year before taking his retirement.

The use of PPE and careful planning and supervision is necessary for all employees, especially when working at height, and MEWPs are mentioned in the Health and Safety Executive’s Work at Height Regulations 2005. 

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