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Openreach UK Hit with £1.34m Fine for Tragic Death of Engineer

Thursday, Jun 6th, 2024 (10:06 am) - Score 2,600

Network access provider Openreach (BT) has been fined £1.34m (inc. costs of £15,858) by the Llandudno Magistrates Court in Wales for breaching Health and Safety laws for staff working near water. The case occurred after one of its engineers – Alun Owen (32) – tragically died after being swept away by a flooded river in October 2020.

According to the BBC News, Alun was working on a customer’s broadband and telephone line in the village of Abergwyngregyn, near Bangor, which had recently been flooded after the River Aber burst its banks. The local lines were understood to be crossing the river and, as Mr Owen attempted to wade into the rival to throw a new line across, he slipped and was swept away. Alun was a father of two children.

Network operators like Openreach typically do have policies in place for working near water, but in this case, they were not followed (no engineer should be working alone near water). The court also heard that Mr Owen had not taken an online training course about working on water. Openreach admitted it “could have done more” to make sure engineers had the right guidance, processes and training when working on, or near, water.

In another incident, Openreach used a wedding picture of Mr Owen as part of a case study in new health and safety training, albeit without seeking permission from the family. Openreach’s Dominic Kay KC said the company wanted to express its “genuine and sincere remorse for what happened“.

In a statement, Openreach’s CEO, Clive Selley, also apologised for failings after the death, including withdrawing a staff discount for the family’s broadband services, because Mr Owen no longer worked for Openreach. “I am deeply saddened that Openreach added to the grief and suffering,” said Mr Selley.

The situation helps to underline that related engineering tasks often carry risks for those working in the field, which is why it isn’t always possible to immediately repair some faults until those risks can be mitigated.

An Openreach spokesperson told ISPreview:

Nothing can ever make up for the loss of Alun. He was a very well-respected and popular colleague, and the impact of his death remains significant and is felt directly by people across Openreach. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

As an organisation, we accept that we could’ve done more to make sure our engineers had the right guidance, processes and training when working on, or near, water. We’re very sorry that we fell short of the required standards, and we deeply regret the loss of Alun, as well as the impact on his family, friends and colleagues.

The safety of our entire workforce, customers and the public remains our priority, and we’re working hard to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Out of respect for the family, comments will be closed on this article.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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