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Openreach fined £1.34m after engineer dies in river

Photo of Alun Owen, an Openreach engineer who died in a river while trying to repair a telephone line.
Alun Owen, the 32-year-old Openreach engineer who died while attempting to fix a telephone line (Image: HSE)

UK telecommunications company Openreach has been fined £1.34m after an engineer died while trying to repair a telephone line.

Alun Owen, 32, from Bethesda, died after he slipped and fell into the River Aber in Abergwyngregyn and was swept away on 6 October 2020.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and North Wales Police found that a number of Openreach engineers had been attempting to repair the telephone lines, which ran across the river, over two months. They had been working both near and in the river.

At the time of the incident, there had been flooding in the area, meaning the river was much higher and faster flowing than usual.

Owen entered the water and made his way to an island in the middle of the river with the aim of throwing a new telephone cable taped to a hammer to the other side. He slipped in a deeper part and was swept away attempting to cross the remaining section of the river.

‘Companies should learn from this incident’

The investigation found there was no safe system of work in place for work on or near water. Owen and others working by the river had also received no training, information or instruction on safe working on or near water.

Openreach Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £1.34m and ordered to pay costs of £15,858.35 at Llandudno Magistrates’ Court on 5 June 2024.

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Christina Roberts said: “This was a tragic incident that resulted in the death of a much-loved young man.

“Mr Owen should not have been put in the unsafe working situation. Companies should learn the lessons from this incident if they have staff who may work on or near water and be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

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Comments

  1. Tragic accidents like this are definitely avoidable. Proper training and instruction for safe system of work is a must and must be recognised by employers. No matter how small or big one is!

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