A power company has been hit with a £420,000 penalty after one of its members of staff died as a result of an incident at one of its sites.
UK Power Networks (Operations) employed John Higgins, 59, from Colchester as an electrical engineer and he was working at a substation in Chelmsford in May 2008 when disaster struck. Mr Higgins was working on a device that was used for changing voltage ratios when it exploded.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) immediately launched an investigation and prosecuted the company for its part in the event. As a result of the explosion, a fire was started at the substation and the employee was killed at the scene.
His death was confirmed despite Essex Fire and Rescue managing to arrive at the scene within minutes.
HSE inspector Steven Gill said: "John Higgins lost his life in tragic circumstances that could have been avoided had this activity had been properly assessed and managed by UK Power Networks. His death illustrates how dangerous work on or near electrical distribution networks can be and how imperative it is that employers - large or small - ensure that all activities involving high voltage electrical equipment are properly assessed."
Such was the strength of the explosion at the electrical substation that a large part of the city of Chelmsford was blacked out as a result. Staff at nearby Anglia Ruskin University were ideally situated to raise the alarm soon after the blast.
UK Power Networks has subsequently changed the way its staff work and issued new procedures to ensure their safety. That did not stop it receiving a £275,000 fine during a recent court appearance, while it must also pay £145,000 in costs.
Mr Gill added there is absolutely no room for error when it comes to protecting employees against high voltage equipment. The case could serve as a reminder of the importance of protecting people at all times against such threats.