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Engineering and Facilities Firms Sentenced

27 October 2015 | Updated 01 January 1970

Two companies have been sentenced for safety failings after a worker was electrocuted during work on a data centre in Middlesex.

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) was contracted to carry out multi-million pound infrastructure upgrade works at the data centre in Hounslow, while Norland Managed Services Ltd (NMS - now part of CBRE) was already contracted to provide mechanical and electrical maintenance and had effective control of the site.

Ipswich Crown Court heard Martin Walton, 27, from Blackhall Colliery, Cleveland was killed on 16 October 2010 at Morgan Stanley’s Heathrow Data Centre. It heard the function of some new power distribution units being installed was to provide two potential power supply sources to the centre’s data storage equipment. One source was an existing substation on the site and the other was a new substation installed as part of the works.

The existing power supply was under the control of Norland Managed Services while the new supply was under the control of BBES.

Connection of the first three of these units to the existing data centre infrastructure was scheduled to take place over the weekend of 16-18 October 2010. Last minute modifications to the units required them to be tested with two live supplies to ensure they functioned correctly before being connected to the data centre’s existing infrastructure. The first unit was successfully modified, tested and connected to the existing infrastructure. However, Martin Walton, a cable jointer employed by subcontracted company, Integrated Cable Services, was electrocuted when his forehead made contact with the 415V live terminals of the second unit.


Complete breakdown

During the sentencing hearing and the earlier trial, HSE told the court the underlying cause of the incident was a succession of failures indicative of the ‘complete breakdown’ of BBES’s management of health and safety in relation to this project, particularly that of communication.

While NMS had no role in the construction project, the relevant aspect of its undertaking was the management of the impact of the construction project on the existing operational infrastructure under their control.

NMS issued a permit to work to Martin Walton allowing him to reroute the existing site power supply through the new distribution unit, in the knowledge it had the potential to receive a supply from a source not under control and without confirming that the other supply was isolated.

Mechanical and electrical installation contractor, BBES, admitted breaches of Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £280,000 in total (£140,000 for each breach) with £42,240 costs. FM company, Norland Managed Services was found guilty after an earlier trial of breaching 3(1) of the Health and Safety Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £100,000 with £106,670 costs.

“Martin Walton’s death which had a truly devastating effect on his family and friends, was entirely preventable,” declared Speaking after the sentencing, Loraine Charles, Inspector. “Although BBES claimed to have been under pressure from a difficult and demanding client, it 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.

Ms Charles went on to state that 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, Mr Walton and others were unknowingly working in the vicinity of exposed live electrical terminals.

“NMS which were operating an effective permit to work system in relation to the equipment under its 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,” concluded Ms Charles.

Picture: Ipswich Crown Court where Balfour Beatty Engineering Services and Norland Managed Services were found guilty of causing the death by electrocution of a worker in 2010 at the Morgan Stanley data centre in Heathrow.

Article written by Mike Gannon | Published 27 October 2015


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