Facilities manager Norland Managed Services was fined £100,000 for its role in the incident.
Balfour Beatty Engineering Services was contracted to carry out multi-million pound infrastructure upgrade works at the data centre in Hounslow, while Norland was already contracted to provide mechanical and electrical maintenance and had effective control of the site.
Ipswich Crown Court heard Martin Walton, 27, from Blackhall Colliery, Cleveland died on 16 October 2010 at Morgan Stanley’s Heathrow Data Centre.
New power distribution units were being installed to provide two potential power supply sources to the centre’s data storage equipment. One source was an existing substation on the site and the other was a new substation installed as part of the works.
The existing power supply was under the control of Norland while the new supply was under the control of Balfour Beatty.
Connection of the first three of these units to the existing data centre infrastructure was scheduled to take place over the weekend of 16 to 18 October 2010. Last minute modifications to the units required them to be tested with two live supplies to ensure they functioned correctly before being connected to the data centre’s existing infrastructure.
The first unit was successfully modified, tested and connected to the existing infrastructure. However, Martin Walton, a cable jointer employed by subcontracted company, Integrated Cable Services, was electrocuted when his forehead made contact with the 415V live terminals of the second unit.
During the sentencing hearing and the earlier trial, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) told the court the underlying cause of the incident was a succession of failures indicative of the complete breakdown of Balfour Beatty’s management of health and safety in relation to this project, particularly the breakdown of communication.
While Norland had no role in the construction project, the relevant aspect of their undertaking was the management of the impact of the construction project on the existing operational infrastructure under their control.
Norland issued a permit-to-work to Martin Walton, allowing him to reroute the existing site power supply through the new distribution unit, in the knowledge it had the potential to receive a supply from a source not under their control and without confirming that that other supply was isolated.
Balfour Beatty Engineering Services admitted breaches of Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £280,000 in total (£140,000) with £42,240 costs.
Norland Managed Services was found guilty after an earlier trial of breaching and 3(1) of the Health and Safety Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £100,000 with £106,670 costs.
HSE inspector Loraine Charles said: “Martin Walton’s death, which had a truly devastating effect on his family and friends, was entirely preventable.
“Although Balfour Beatty claimed to have been under pressure from a difficult and demanding client, they cannot be excused for having lost sight of the need for the effective control of risks arising from the work being carried out under their control at this data centre.
“Permit to work systems were operated poorly or not at all. Not one person involved in the work at the time of the accident had an accurate overall understanding of the work being carried out and, as a consequence, Martin Walton and others were unknowingly working in the vicinity of exposed live electrical terminals.
“Norland, who were operating an effective permit to work system in relation to the equipment under their own control, made no effort to ensure that the work they permitted did not create risk at the point at which it interacted with equipment under Balfour's control.”
Balfour Beatty subsequently issued the following statement: "Balfour Beatty has offered its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Martin Walton who was killed in this tragic incident. The safety of the public and our workforce is always our primary concern. Balfour Beatty has since taken appropriate corrective action to take the lessons learnt from this tragic incident and share them and improvements across our business."