Tideway incident lands Thames Water with £300k fine
10th December 2019
On 29 August 2017 three workers were carrying out preparatory work in a sewer for the Thames Tideway Tunnel at East Greenwich.
A 150-year-old cast iron penstock failed engulfing the workers and carrying them along the sewer.
Westminster Magistrates' Court was told that the three workers suffered minor physical injuries but have been mentally affected. One worker has been treated for the long-term traumatic stress because of the incident which has prevented him from continuing work in his specialised career.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Thames Water Utilities had planned individual work activities but failed to properly coordinate these as the permission and authorisation system was fragmented.
The company had no effective means of collating, comparing and adapting to the impact of multiple work activities.
Due to an unrelated planned power outage, sewage pumps vital to the control of sewage levels for the work being undertaken at East Greenwich were not available for use which resulted in the failure.
Thames Water Utilities admitted breaching reg 3(1)(b) of the Confined Spaces Regulations and was fined £300,000 plus costs of £16,419.
"This serious incident endangered the lives of three workers and caused lasting adverse mental health effects; the workers narrowly avoided death by drowning in sewage," said HSE inspector James Goldfinch, speaking after the hearing.
"It should serve as a warning and a reminder to all those that work in confined spaces that work in these challenging environments must be properly planned, coordinated and managed."