News

BT engineer sustained broken back in 7 m fall

British Telecom (BT) must pay almost £600,000 after one of its engineers was seriously injured when he fell from a loft in east London.

In May 2011, David Spurgeon was working alone, fixing a telephone fault in the roof void of a block of flats in Tower Hamlets. He lost his balance and fell through the ceiling, landing on a concrete stairwell 7 m below. He broke his back and both ankles.  

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and found management failures by BT, including inadequate planning of work taking place near fragile surfaces as well as checking that it was carried out safely. 

At the Old Bailey, BT was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Safety and Health and Work Act. It was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £98,914. 

In court the judge criticised BT for attempting to blame the incident on its engineers, stating that the company’s approach was “not necessary, misplaced and unfortunate”. 

 

Keeley Downey is assistant editor of IOSH Magazine

Comments

Not surprised - Generic risk assessments !!

Resounding comments made by judge when BT try to place the blame on the operative. The fine is also proportionate to send a message to the board and shareholders.

Did the judge not consult the new sentencing guidelines?

Peter, thanks for your comment. Our reporter has just spoken with the HSE inspector involved. We will be publishing a follow-up story with more details shortly.

In the last two weeks I have challenged two BT engineers who were working on ladders in a country lane around a sharp bend with no warning signage. When I asked do you have signage they both replied "it's in the van". Not the best answer!

Did the judge not make it to section 7 HASWA.

I don’t usually comment on articles of this nature anymore as I believe you cannot understand the full issue from an article no matter how well written.
That said the concern I have is that this is the second article in two weeks involving BT regarding serious falls from height. However, they are both from several years ago and at different job sites under different conditions. Therefore, it would be of more interest to see a report/article on what they have done to understand the issues and address the deficiencies.
Reading Laurence’s comment it could be construed there may be an issue with workforce safety culture but this is only one incident. Do BT investigate if anyone tells them of these types of incidents and take appropriate action through a continuous improvement policy?

The new sentencing guidelines only apply to new cases from Feb this year. There really should be an explanation as to why this case has taken 5 years to investigate and come to trial. Although there were 100K of court costs the FFI bill would have been considered by the court to as part of the overall penalty - So what was the FFI cost?? it should be reported, its relevant.

The new sentencing guidelines only apply to new cases from Feb this year. There really should be an explanation as to why this case has taken 5 years to investigate and come to trial. Although there were 100K of court costs the FFI bill would have been considered by the court to as part of the overall penalty - So what was the FFI cost?? it should be reported, its relevant.

My correction, the sentencing guidelines do apply as its the date of sentencing not the offence date. The guidelines require and explanation of how the fine was arrived at and this should be reported

£50 million and over turnover
High Culpability and High Harm - 4m (range 2.6m to 10m)
Medium Culpability Med Harm - 600K (range 300K to 1.5m)
Low Culpability and Low Harm - 10K (range 3K to 60K)

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