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£642,000 fine for three rail firms

Three railway companies were fined £200,000 each, and must pay a total of £42,000 costs, for an electrocution in 2003.

The prosecution, brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), followed an incident at Marston Green near Birmingham on 1 July 2003, when a worker was electrocuted from an overhead line.

An employee of Elec-Track Installations suffered burns after receiving an electric shock from a line that carries 25,000 volts. His right leg was removed below the knee, and he sustained 30% burns over his body. Two further workers were injured as they jumped clear from the elevated platform upon which they had been working.

The men thought the line had been isolated and made safe.

The work was carried out by a joint venture between GT Railway Maintenance Ltd and Balfour Beatty Rail Projects Ltd, with Elec-Track Installations Ltd (now known as Hythe Realisations Ltd) as a sub-contractor.

The companies had previously received warnings about their isolation procedures from their own safety staff, but had not made improvements.

Commenting on the case on 1 July 2003, Deputy Chief Inspector of Railways Allan Spence said: "With such a high risk activity, there should have been a robust permit to work system confirming it was safe to start work. Instead, the system these companies used was a short cut. That short cut tragically led to confusion and, in turn, to the awful burn injuries to this worker.

"ORR's Railway Inspectorate takes such failings very seriously: we will continue to press companies working in the railway industry to properly manage risks."

The Judge when passing sentence said that these were systemic failings and that the three companies' activity fell very significantly below the expected standard. Each company was fined £200,000, reflecting the serious nature of the offences.

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