UK Telecom Firm Fined $881,000 for Fall Hazards

British Telecommunications PLC has been fined £600,000, equivalent to $881,000, after two of its workers were seriously injured in falls in April 2010, the UK's Health and Safety Executive reported May 27.

British Telecommunications PLC has been fined £600,000, equivalent to $881,000, after two of its workers were seriously injured in falls in April 2010, the UK's Health and Safety Executive reported May 27.

A judge presiding in the case brought by HSE heard that two British Telecommunications Open Reach engineers had been given a job at the company's Darlington Automatic Telephone Exchange. One was installing a cable on the first floor along a ceiling-level cable tray, working on a stepladder. He felt a pain in his right arm and fell from the stepladder, resulting in back and neck injuries for which he was taken to a hospital. HSE investigators concluded the accident was not properly investigated and that, later that day, the work was allowed to continue. The second engineer continued the work from a different ladder and also fell to the ground, suffering serious skull and back injuries.

One year after the accident, the first engineer returned to work. but he had lost his sense of smell and taste and required physical therapy for several years. The second engineer had sustained multiple fractures of the skull and spine; his sense of smell and taste had been affected, he was blinded in one eye, and he has long-term memory problems.

HSE found the work had not been properly planned, despite workers being exposed to such serious risks as working at height close to an electrical system, and that serious failings within the electrical lighting system exposed workers to live metal parts, some at 240 volts. "The system was poorly constructed and had not been properly maintained or tested. It is most likely that both engineers received electric shocks which threw them from the ladders," according to the agency.

British Telecommunication PLC, located in London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay costs of £60,000.

"Work at height and working close to electrical systems needs to be properly assessed and planned so that adequate controls can be put in place. This duty rests firmly with the employer," said Laura Lyons, an HSE inspector. "These life-changing incidents could have been avoided if BT had provided safe systems of work and ensured that the electrical systems were properly constructed, maintained, and tested."

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