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‘Like a sauna’: Network Rail fined £700k after substation fire injures worker

The remains of the substation after the fire (Image courtesy of ORR)

Network Rail has been fined £696,666 after one of its employees received third-degree and mixed-depth burns while working on a substation at Godinton in Kent.

An investigation by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) found that conditions in the substation were unsafe and that Network Rail had failed, over a significant period of time, to prevent water leaking into the building and to maintain dehumidifiers installed inside.

The ORR found 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.”

Sentence was passed by district judge Barron at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court, following ORR’s prosecution.

Ian Prosser, HM chief inspector of railways, ORR 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. 

District judge Barron 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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