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Electrician killed in crane fall: company fined £1.5m

Electrician killed when he fell from an overhead crane.

A collapsed steelwork company has been fined £1.5m after an electrical contractor fell to his death.

Teesside Crown Court heard that 54-year-old Keith Poppleton was repairing wiring on an overhead gantry crane in October 2015. As he was walking along the gantry, he fell through an access panel, falling 8 metres to the ground, sustaining fatal injuries.

Cleveland Bridge UK of Darlington, who went into administration last year, owing more than £21m, was criticised for it’s “shocking health and safety failures” when it was discovered that no inspections or maintenance had been carried out on the crane since it was installed in 1983.

An HSE investigation also found that the access panel had not been replaced properly after being lifted some months previously to carry out maintenance work.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Jonathan Wills said: “This was an incident which could easily have been prevented had the company considered the risks associated with such access panels not being secured in place following maintenance work and general wear and tear.”

Craig Hassall QC, prosecuting, said: “Following the death the defending company replaced all of the removable access panels with permanent panels, welded into place within the recesses. It also introduced periodic inspections of the walkways, which had never been in place before.”

Mr Poppleton was a highly experienced electrical engineer and a college lecturer. His wife, Catherine said: “He was risk-averse and this respect for safety was something he practised as well as taught.”

Diane Parker, specialist personal injury solicitor commented: “The risks involved in working at height are well known. Any fall has the potential to be fatal, certainly so at this height.

“Cleveland Bridge was unbelievably lax with the safety of workers using their equipment and had allowed breaches to continue over several decades.”

Cleveland Bridge was found guilty of four offences relating to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The company had been fined £8,000 in 2003 after an employee fell from a tower scaffold.