On 24thApril 2014, 11-year-old Robbie Williamson and two friends were crossing the Leeds-Liverpool Canal using a cast iron pipeline running on the outside of Dugdale Bridge at Lowerhouse Lane in Burnley.
As they were crossing, Robbie fell from the pipe and into the canal below. He was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital but died later that day. The cause of death was recorded as being caused by drowning and a head injury.
Preston Crown Court was told by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting that National Grid Gas plc failed to properly protect the exposed pipeline from the risk of injury from falls from the pipeline.
The boys were able to climb on to the pipe from a ramp running from the road to the canal tow path.
The court heard that National Grid Gas has a procedure for inspecting this type of above ground pipe crossing, and requirements for providing measures to prevent access on to these structures. However its records incorrectly showed the pipe was buried within the bridge rather than exposed on the outside of it, so it had not been subject to any inspections and had no access prevention measures fitted.
It is typical for pipe crossings to have measures fitted to prevent access and they have now been fitted to the Dugdale Bridge pipe after an HSE improvement notice was issued.
National Grid Gas plc operates the gas distribution network delivering gas to approximately half of the homes and businesses in the UK through its network of pipes. It pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £2,000,000 with £36,102.90 costs.