Rail freight co convicted over teenager’s 25,000-volt shock
The operator of a freight yard in Gateshead on Tyneside has been convicted after its failure to prevent four teenagers from trespassing resulted in a 13-year-old boy sustaining life-changing injuries.
Two boys, aged 11 and 13, climbed onto the roof of a stationary wagon in Tyne Yard, which is managed by DB Cargo (UK), and made contact with the live current from overhead line equipment. The older boy sustained serious injuries from the 25,000-volt equipment while the younger boy received minor burns.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) investigation into the incident, which took place on 14 June 2014, found that the two teenage boys and two 13-year-old girls were able to get into the site easily to visit a disused signal box, known to local children as the “haunted house”.
The teenagers then wandered to another part of the site where the two boys climbed on to a stationary wagon, which formed one part of a 22-wagon train that was due to leave the depot later that evening.
The ORR found that DB Cargo (UK) had not installed a fence or gate to prevent members of the public from getting into the yard from a public bridleway. There were no security patrols at the site and the company had failed to erect warning signs to deter trespassers at the entrance.
The jury at the four-week trial at Newcastle Crown Court was told that DB Cargo (UK) was fully aware that the yard attracted trespassers. The ORR found graffiti on buildings, fly tipping and vandalism on the site and the investigation highlighted reports of drinking and drug taking. One of the children told investigators that for a period “she used to go every day”.
DB Cargo (UK) had noted in January 2013 the signal box should be demolished because it presented a risk. Another inspection in April that year awarded the signal box the highest possible risk rating and a month later the company obtained quotes for its demolition. A further risk assessment in March 2014 confirmed the highest possible level of risk. However, the ORR found that the company failed to carry out the demolition work until October 2014, four months after the incident.
Doncaster-based DB Cargo (UK), formerly DB Schenker Rail UK and English, Welsh & Scottish Railway, was found guilty of failing to discharge its duty under s 3(1) and contrary to s 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Sentencing is scheduled for 6 and 7 February 2019.
Nick Warburton is deputy editor of IOSH Magazine