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Maintenance contractor fined over cooling tower drowning

22 Sep 11 A maintenance contractor has been hit for £155,000 after a man drowned from falling into a water filled sump at a North Wales power station.

Michael Benn, 35, from Glenrothes, Fife was one of a team of three working to remove sludge and debris from part of a cooling tower at Connah’s Quay Power Station on 27 August 2007.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found he was working in poorly lit conditions inside the cooling tower, and had entered an enclosed culvert to check the depth of water in the sump.

Colleagues working nearby heard Mr Benn’s distressed shouts, but when they got to the sump he had disappeared from view. His body was subsequently recovered from the bottom of the sump.

His employer, Epsco Ltd, of Arran Road, Perth, Scotland, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to have a safe system of work in place.

At Mold Crown Court, the company pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay costs of £120,000.

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HSE principal inspector Colin Mew said: “This incident was entirely foreseeable and yet it was still allowed to happen. Epsco Ltd would have known Mr Benn or one of his colleagues would need to approach the sump in the course of their work. The inherent risk of working in this manner should have been obvious to any diligent employer.

“This company failed to put a safe system of work into place. The enclosed area where this work was taking place was poorly lit, noisy and conditions were wet and slippery.

“The cost of providing barriers or other measures to prevent this incident and the time and effort involved would have been minimal.

“The real tragedy here is the human cost that has resulted from the death of Michael Benn and the ease with which his death could have been prevented – I hope that other employers take heed of this message”

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