After serious injuries were sustained by two rail workers in an accident in Whitemoor railway yard, a rail firm and construction company have been fined £60,000. In 2009, the two were repairing a machine for redistributing ballast along the railway line when their accident occurred. The two men were injured after supporting an internal part of the ballast regulator with a hydraulic car jack that should not have been used. The car jack subsequently collapsed and crushed one of the employees. The man, who was an employee of Swietelsky Construction, sustained multiple facial fractures and to this day still suffers from a brain injury because of it. The other man, a Babcock rail employee, suffered injury to his left eye and face.
After the accident the Office of Rail Regulation were called in to investigate and was followed by a Cambridge Crown Court where the rail firm and construction company were fined. The Court learned that Babcock Rail and Swieteslsky Construction had failed to carry out necessary risk assessment protocols for the replacement of wear plates inside the ballast regulator, which is a piece of equipment that can be hazardous and potentially collapse and crush a worker if not assessed correctly. It was also learned that employees were not sufficiently trained and briefed about how to safely replace the wear plates. Because of this, employees were forced to figure out how to carry out this work themselves, which exposed them to unnecessary risks.
Babcock Rail and Swieteslsky Construction were charged under sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Swietelsky Construction pleaded guilty at a hearing at Cambridge Crown Court in October 5. Babcock Rail pleaded guilty in January.
The Orr’s principle inspector for south east Railway Safety, Tom Wake, said on the matter: “No employee should ever be set to work on dangerous machinery without appropriate support and training. In this instance on 25 March 2009 Swietelsky Construction and Babcock Rail caused two rail workers to suffer serious head injuries at the Whitemoor rail depot because of poor planning and lack of employee training. The sentence passed today demonstrates how seriously the court considers these criminal breaches of health and safety law. ORR will keep pressing the industry to ensure the safety of those working on Britain’s railways bringing criminal prosecutions where necessary.”
Babcock Rail and Swieteslsky Construction were fined a total of £29,728 in costs.