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Judge Orders BT Openreach to Pay GBP500k After Engineer Accident

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 (3:37 pm) - Score 5,541

The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales (Old Bailey) has fined a “disappointedBT (Openreach) £500,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £98,913.51 after one of their engineers, David Spurgeon, fell 7 metres from a loft, shattering both ankles and suffering back injuries.

According to CourtNewsUK (members only), Spurgeon was working alone in the attic space at a block of flats when he slipped and plunged through ceiling tiles on to a concrete stairwell. BT allowed the engineer to retire on medical grounds in 2013, which happened two years after the original accident in 2011.

Earlier reports of the case suggested that BT could have been facing a fine worth millions of pounds and in its defence the operator is understood to have accused their former employee of “being unreliable and milking his condition“. But Judge John Bevan QC branded such claims as “not necessary, misplaced and unfortunate.”

A Spokesperson for Openreach (BT) told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We are disappointed with this conviction. The safety of the public and BT people is always our primary concern and we have a strong track record in this area as recognised by the judge.

BT is always looking for ways to improve the safety and security of our people and their work environment.”

Generally Openreach and other operators always put their staff through some fairly frequent safety training. As a result engineers may refuse to do a job if their Health & Safety regulations get in way, which can thus require additional support to complete. Obviously this can also cause delays and frustration. But in this case the court clearly felt as if there had been a number of failures with health and safety management.

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14 Responses
  1. Karl says:

    “David Spurgeon, fell 7 metres from a loft, shattering both ankles and suffering back injuries……………………………
    BT could have been facing a fine worth millions of pounds and in its defence the operator is understood to have accused their former employee of “being unreliable and milking his condition“. But Judge John Bevan QC branded such claims as “not necessary, misplaced and unfortunate.”

    Shattered both ankles stop milking that and get back to work………..

    The same BT with excellent training and begs its employees to vote no to leaving Europe. Nothing more needs adding. Except……… BULLY ORGANISATION.

  2. DTMark says:

    I haven’t read the entire ruling and the site linked in the article requires a subscription.

    However when BT come out to swap some more pairs around at the local pole, which seems to be about once a month, this usually involves a cherry-picker and at least two other vans with six or more staff, most of them just watching. People aren’t “climbing up poles”.

    In this instance, surely the only person fit to judge the safety of the working space was the employee themselves since they were working alone.

    I read once that “telecoms engineer” is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country based on accidents.

    If the BT handbook says “You have no option but to work in any environment to get the job done” then I would place the fault with BT. Except it doesn’t, does it.

  3. Karl says:

    Is your telegraph pole wood or metal? Typically they climb up poles that have footpegs which are normally the wooden ones. Climbing a slick metal pole i imagine would not be easy even if you wanted to. Round my way the poles are wooden and anytime i have had a BT engineer out (or anyone in the road) and its required something done at the pole they have done it thereself without calling in others, just go to their van and get their harness and up they go……….

    Which begs the question if employees are not expected to do thing like climb poles why supply them the harness?

    1. FibreFred says:

      Arr right so you don’t need a harness if there’s a few people with you?

      I assume their role is to catch?

    2. Karl says:

      If you are using a cherry picker then the harness (if you can call it that its more a safety line) you attach in the basket/nest of the picker is entirely different equipment to a harness you have for climbing.

      If the rules are you have to have a group of engineers before they climb anything why have i personally seen them climbing poles on their own so frequently?

      Why do BT send only a single individual out to jobs that they know will involve climbing?

      Why have sites all over the net got numerous images of engineers up a pole on their own?

      Why are there engineers up and down the land installing FTTC up ladders moving master sockets for people all on their own?

      Perhaps if you think a group is required you should notify your bosses in BT of all the engineers on google images acting alone climbing poles breaking BT rules.

      While you are at it you can also have a look to see the type of harness/safety line is different for climbing and for standing in a cherry picker. You can also go look up how the harness is attached to the cherry picker and not some bring it along equipment like what is used when climbing poles.

      Lets not let common sense get in the way though, it never seems to for you.

    3. FibreFred says:

      Your troll has nothing to do with my comment.

      Lots of typing tho

    4. Karl says:

      “Your troll has nothing to do with my comment.

      Lots of typing tho”

      I do apologise if it was a lot for you to read, please refer to the last line of said post for the gist of the response.

    5. FibreFred says:

      I skim read, decided it was irrelevant and moved on. Thanks for the (wasted) effort and +10 on your troll rating, not long until another of your usernames will be retired

    6. Karl says:

      “…decided it was irrelevant and moved on.”

      Yet here you are still replying in your typical cretinous manner with random name calling and vivid accusations.

    7. Mark says:

      Hi, You are incorrect in your assumption. As an OR engineer, let me give you my own point of view.

      1. Wooden “telegraph” poles are meant to be climbed, with the use of a ladder, various tests before the climb. Some of the best kit in the country to ensure a safe climb. The training is the best. I was taught to climb “sticks” by a retired BT guy at Stone, a main BT teaching location. What has always stuck in my mind was that he said “I love you and don’t want you to die falling” he quantified the word “love” as meaning he cared for our safety.

      The man, I forgot his name, was maybe late 60’s and could climb a pole like a monkey, but safely.

      2. Metal poles. Never to be climbed by ladder. May need cherry picker if damaged at the top. I have nothing to add on metal poles.

  4. Evan Crissall says:

    This Second £500,000 fine in a month for BT due to its H&S breaches.

    From Construction Manager magazine:

    Second £500,000 fall-from-height fine inside a month for BT

    BT has paid out over £500,000 for a fall-from-height accident for the second time inside a month.

    The telecomms giant was fined £600,000 in late May after two of its employees were injured after falling from height.

    Those two earlier accidents occurred at Darlington telephone exchange. Two engineers fell from height after being electrocuted by live metal parts, some at 240V. Seriously injuring themselves.


    6 Jun 2016

    Work at height warning after BT is fined £600,000

    British Telecommunications (BT) has been fined £600,000 after two of its employees were seriously injured in falls from height.

    Teesside Crown Court heard how two BT engineers were working at the organisation’s Darlington Automatic Telephone Exchange on 1 April 2010.

    One of the engineers was installing a cable through a hole on the first floor along a ceiling level cable tray to the main distribution frame on the ground floor. To carry out this work, he was working on a stepladder in amongst the lighting system. He felt a pain in his right arm and fell from the step ladder. He was taken to hospital with head and back injuries.

    The accident was not properly investigated and later that day the work was allowed to continue. The second engineer continued with the work himself, from a different ladder. However he too fell to the ground and was taken to hospital with serious skull and back injuries.

    In full at http://www.constructionmanagermagazine.com/news/work-height-warning-after-bt-fined-600000/

    Pathetic really, but that’s BT for you.

    1. Karl says:

      “Pathetic really, but that’s BT for you.”

      Yep much like the employee stalker i have attracted.

    2. Evan Crissall says:

      Nurse come quickly! FibreFred has relapsed! Back to his nasty old delusion. Imagining there’s just one BT critic in the world! Just the one critic who poses as multiple people, or so he imagines! Bring the LARGEST syringe, nurse! FibreFred is gonna need it BIG time!

  5. paul c-young says:

    BT do provide all the safety training required to work safely BUT you try asking for assistance from the control on safety grounds and you are told no engineers spare. If you refuse to do the job you will be marked down on your appraisal. BT just pass the buck. Nothing changes.

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