Cleaning firm fined after worker fell to his death

Reporter:

Lois Hough

A COMPANY has been ordered to pay more than £150,000 after the death of a worker at Connah’s Quay Power Station.

Michael William Benn, 37, from Fife, Scotland, died after falling into a cooling water chamber at the power station on August 30, 2007.

Aberdeen-based Epsco Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of Mr Benn and other workers and was yesterday fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £120,000 costs.

Judge Niclas Parry told the hearing at Mold Crown Court: “This sentencing cannot remotely reflect the tragic loss of life of Mr Benn.

“He was a hard-working, loving man who had so much to look forward to with his wife.

“The loss is enormous and continues to be so.”

Mr Benn and two other workers – Fraser Duff and Shane McNicoll – were contracted to clean cooling towers at the E.ON-owned plant and were pushing silt and debris from the River Dee into a sump with a hose.

Mr Benn was worried a pump to drain water from the well was not working properly and went to the edge to investigate.

But Mr McNicoll and Mr Duff, who were illuminated with lights from behind, lost sight of him.

His body was subsequently recovered from the bottom of the sump.

David Morgan, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said a barrier would have prevented Mr Benn from falling to his death.

Yesterday Simon Antrobus, on behalf of Epsco Ltd, said the death was a “solitary blemish” on an otherwise exemplary health and safety record.

“The reason this company has built on its success in the industry is because of its safety reputation,” he said.

“It does everything by the book. This is far from a small company that does things on the cheap. It has to be totally professional.

“The failing of this company is one that is totally out of character.”

In sentencing, Judge Parry said: “It is accepted that this company has a good health and safety record in an extremely hazardous line of work, but risks cannot be taken with people’s lives.”

After the hearing Mr Benn’s widow, Lynne, urged other firms in similar work to do everything possible to protect their staff.

She said: “Any other companies involved in these processes need to look at them closely because we’re talking about lives.”

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