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Network Rail fined after substation fire

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Folkestone Magistrates’ Court has fined Network Rail £696,666 after the company pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act for failing to protect the safety of staff.

The case followed an incident at Godinton substation in Kent at the end of 2018, during which a Network Rail employee was seriously injured with third degree and mixed depth burns in a fire after Network Rail failed, over a significant period of time, to prevent water leaking into the building and to maintain dehumidifiers installed inside.

The prosecution was brought by rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road. In its investigation, the 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. The conditions inside the substation on the day of the incident were described as “like a sauna.”

Ian Prosser, ORR.

Ian Prosser CBE, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, 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 raised by staff and contractors, the required work was repeatedly delayed.

“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 reinforces the importance of acting effectively on known concerns to protect the health and safety of employees on Britain’s railway.”

In his 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.

He added that, as a result of these failures, Network Rail’s employees were exposed to risk, and that risk materialised on 20 December 2018 when the flashover and fire occurred.

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