Wetton Cleaning Services Limited and London and Southeastern (LSER) have been fined £1.1m and £2.5m respectively, following the death of a cleaner in 2014.
In a prosecution brought by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), Guildford Crown Court was told that Roger Lower, 46, had been working a night shift for Wettons at West Marina Depot, near Hastings in East Sussex on 24 May 2014. He began cleaning the sides of trains with colleagues shortly after 10pm, but was found lying on a 750-volt live rail later that night. Emergency services were called but were unable to save his life.
West Marina’s cleaners were supposed to be protected from the live rail by ‘Protection Boards’, but ORR Inspectors found that none of the four boards present were in use – instead, they were leaning against buffer, away from the scene of the tragedy.
The ORR investigation revealed health and safety failures by both Wettons and LSER, contravening the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, with Inspectors finding a culture of corner cutting. Workers were exposed to risks including inadequate training and supervision, a failure to ensure safe system operation, and a reliance on paperwork over practical checks.
Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said: “Our thoughts are with Mr. Lower’s family and friends at this difficult time. The failings by Wettons and Southeastern were unacceptable and show the consequences of not abiding by health and safety, including the provisions of the law. As always, ORR is committed to monitoring compliance and taking tough enforcement action when necessary, as this tragic case demonstrates.
Wettons was prosecuted under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, while LSER was prosecuted under Section 3. LSER and Wettons were ordered to pay costs of £162,000 each.