British Telecom plc (BT) has been fined £500,000 after an engineer fell seven metres (almost 23 feet) from a loft in London, breaking his back and both ankles.
The Old Bailey heard that at the time of the incident, BT engineer, David Spurgeon, was fixing a telephone fault in the roof void of a residential block of flats in Tower Hamlets, East London.
Mr Spurgeon was working alone when he lost his balance and fell through the ceiling, landing on a concrete stairwell, sustaining serious injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which happened in May 2011, found there were a number of management failures by BT, including inadequate planning of work taking place near fragile surfaces and checking that it was carried out safely.
BT was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Safety and Health at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £98,913.51.
In his sentencing remarks the judge criticised BT for attempting to blame its own engineers for the incident. He described their approach as being ‘not necessary, misplaced, and unfortunate’.
HSE inspector Kevin Smith said: “David Spurgeon is lucky to be alive. There were a number of failures of health and safety management by BT which related to planning the work, supervision, and checking it was being carried out safely. Work at height needs to be properly planned, and this incident could have been prevented.”
Lara Murray, a health and safety legal expert with Palmers, explained: “This was an extremely serious incident and the Court’s reaction illustrates that any company which tries to defend itself by seeking to blame a worker for contributory negligence, needs to be absolutely clear on its facts or it will come unstuck.
“Working at height presents clear dangers and any company which expects its employees to undertake such work needs to ensure that all possible steps are taken to protect both their workers and the company from the serious consequences of accidents of this kind.”