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Network Rail fined circa £700,000 for Health and Safety failings at Kent substation

04 May 2021

NETWORK RAIL has been fined £696,666 after pleading guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to protect the safety of staff following an incident at the Godinton substation in Kent at the tail end of 2018.

A Network Rail employee was seriously injured with third degree and mixed depth burns in a fire at the substation after Network Rail failed, across a “significant period” of time, to prevent water leaking into the building and to maintain dehumidifiers that were installed inside.

In its investigation, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) had found the conditions were unsafe and that the failures led to an electrical arc and a fire while Network Rail’s employees were working on a circuit breaker Indeed, the conditions inside the substation on the day of the incident were described as being “like a sauna”.

Sentence was passed by District Judge Barron at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court following the ORR’s prosecution case being heard.

Ian Prosser CBE, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Railways at the ORR, said: “This case highlights the importance of acting to reduce or eliminate known risks at an early stage. Network Rail knew of the water leak at Godinton for nine months and, despite concerns having been raised by staff and contractors, the required work was repeatedly delayed.”

Prosser continued: “This was a known risk and the failure to deal with it effectively led to staff working in unsafe conditions, resulting in serious injuries to one employee. This case absolutely reinforces the importance of acting effectively on known concerns to protect the Health and Safety of employees on Britain’s railway.”

In his sentencing remarks, District Judge Barron said that the system of work in place at the time was not sufficiently robust and the training programme for Network Rail’s technicians at the time did not adequately identify the dangers of working near to live equipment in damp conditions.

District Judge Barron added that, as a result of these failures, Network Rail’s employees were exposed to risk, with that risk materialising on 20 December 2018 when the flashover incident and fire occurred.