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  3. Warnings issued to water company fail to prevent death of a worker

A fatal incident that occurred in 2013 at South West Water has received an open verdict following an inquest lasting five days.

Robert Geach had been working alone when the incident happened, and it is believed that safety procedures, and changes that have been made since his death, may have prevented the tragic incident. In 2009, a report to South West Water raised serious concerns about health and safety, although the sand filtration unit where Geach died was not assessed for risks.

One of the main causes for concern was that Geach was not discovered until three hours after the time of the incident. Geach had followed the lone worker procedure, but a number of delays in the process meant that the standby worker didn't reach him until after 7:30 pm. A new procedure has been put in place, which eliminates the delays reaching a lone worker.

Other improvements include the fitting of covers which cannot be removed from the tanks. As workers have to work through an opening that resembles a cat flap, further incidents of this type are unlikely to occur. The chief operating officer for SWW read out a statement during the inquest, expressing the company's sorrow at the loss of a valued member of the team, along with assurances that the health and safety procedures were already being reviewed at the time of the workers death and new systems were being put in place.

All companies must ensure that working procedures do not endanger the lives of workers, which may include the use of PPE where necessary.

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