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BT Fined £500,000 after Worker Breaks Back

British Telecom plc (BT) has been fined £500,000 following an incident in which an engineer sustained serious injuries, including a broken back.

Incident

BT engineer, David Spurgeon, fell through the ceiling of a residential block of flats in Tower Hamlet, East London, while he was fixing a telephone fault.

The Old Bailey heard how Mr Spurgeon lost his balance and fell seven meters through the ceiling, landing on the concrete staircase below. The engineer broke his back and both of his ankles.

HSE Investigation & Fines

During an investigation into the incident, inspectors for the Health and Safety Executive discovered that there had been numerous failings in management on BT’s part. Such failings included poor planning of work to be carried out near fragile surfaces and also a failure to ensure that the work was carried out in a safe manner.

After being found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Safety and Health at Work etc Act 1974, British Telecom plc, of Newgate Street, London, was fined £500,000. BT was also ordered to pay costs totalling £98, 913.51.

Whilst sentencing the company, the judge made reference to the fact that BT had attempted to pin the blame on their engineers, describing their approach as ‘not necessary, misplaced, and unfortunate’.

Following the hearing, 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.”

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Source: Health & Safety Executive

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