The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has prosecuted Metro operator Nexus after a worker was killed while carrying out maintenance work.
John Bell was electrocuted at the company’s South Gosforth depot in July 2014 while working on high voltage overhead lines, after grabbing a live wire that he believed was isolated from the power supply.
An investigation found safety-critical procedures were ignored and some continued for a substantial period after John’s death.
'Nexus’ working practices were poor and continued so for a long time'
This included failures to allow work to be carried out without the appropriate instructions for staff to prevent injury; work being undertaken without the required safety-critical permits; and serious inadequacies in policy documents covering ‘live line working’, which failed to include a requirement for staff to test all electrical wires before carrying out work.
ORR found lessons were not learned over a number of years and problems persisted despite the death, putting people at risk for a substantial period thereafter.
At Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Crown Court, Nexus agreed the failures involved were a significant cause of the death of its employee.
In his remarks, His Honour Judge Spragg said the case was an avoidable tragedy of a much-loved man and that Nexus should have prevented such a state of affairs from arising and continuing.
Nexus was fined £1.5 million and ordered to pay £172,390 in costs at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Crown Court last Friday (23 April).
'Nexus’ working practices were poor and continued so for a long time,' added Ian Prosser CBE, HM Chief Inspector of Railways at ORR. '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.'