Two organisations have been prosecuted and fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a worker was electrocuted and died whilst carrying out work on a Middlesex data centre.
Multi-million pound infrastructure upgrade
Norland Managed Services Ltd (NMS) was contracted to provide electrical and mechanical maintenance with effective control of the data centre in Hounslow, Middlesex, whilst Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Ltd (BBES) was contracted to carry out multi-million pound infrastructure upgrade works at the site.
Martin Walton, 27, of Blackhall Colliery, Cleveland, was electrocuted and killed at Morgan Stanley’s Heathrow Data Centre on 16th October 2010.
Ipswich Crown Court heard the purpose of new power distribution units being fitted was to deliver two possible power supply sources to the centre’s data storage equipment. One source was a new substation implemented as part of the on-going works and the other an existing substation on the site.
Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Ltd had control of the new power supply, whilst Norland Management Services Ltd. had control over the existing power supply.
The court heard that connection of the first three of these units to the existing data centre setup was arranged to take place over the weekend of 16th to 18th October 2010. Late modifications to the units meant there was a requirement for them to be tested with two live supplies, ensuring they performed properly before being connected to the data centre’s existing infrastructure. The first unit went without a glitch and was successfully modified, tested and connected to the existing infrastructure. However, when modifying the second unit, Martin Walton, a cable jointer employed by subcontracted company, Integrated Cable Services Ltd, was electrocuted as his head made contact with the 415V live terminals.
HSE told the court during the trial and sentencing hearing that the ultimate cause of the incident was a sequence of failures. Failures which underpinned the breakdown of BBESs’ coordinating of health and safety with regards to this particular project, in particular the breakdown of communication between staff.
NMS played no part in the construction project; however, they issued Mr Walton with a permit-to-work. This enabled him to reroute the current power supply through the new distribution unit, even though NMS knew that there was the possibility that the unit could in fact receive a supply from a source that was not under the firm’s control. NMS also failed to confirm that the other supply was isolated.
Sentencing & Fines
Electrical installation and mechanical contractor, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Ltd of Lumina Building, Ainslie Road, Hillington Park, Glasgow, pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety Work etc. Act 1974. The organisation was fined £140,000 for each breach, totalling £280,000 and ordered to pay £42,240 costs.
Norland Managed Services Ltd, of City Bridge House, Southwark Street, London was fined £100,000 with £106,670 costs. The company was found guilty at an earlier trial of breaching 3(1) of the Health and Safety Work etc. Act 1974.
HSE inspector Loraine Charles said after the sentencing:
“Martin Walton’s death, which had a truly devastating effect on his family and friends, was entirely preventable.
“Although BBES claimed to have been under pressure from a difficult and demanding client, they cannot be excused for having lost sight of the need for the effective control of risks arising from the work being carried out under their control at this data centre.
“Permit to work systems were operated poorly or not at all. Not one person involved in the work at the time of the accident had an accurate overall understanding of the work being carried out and, as a consequence, Martin Walton and others were unknowingly working in the vicinity of exposed live electrical terminals.
“NMS, who were operating an effective permit to work system in relation to the equipment under their own control, made no effort to ensure that the work they permitted did not create risk at the point at which it interacted with equipment under BBES control.”
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Source: Health & Safety Executive